Terms Of Service

Author's Note:

So in our world of Dungeons & Dragons we use any character that appeals to us and one that we really liked was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We chose her as a parent for the baby mentioned in the story because she seemed the polar opposite of the elf we chose as the father. So this is a crossover of characters if not worlds. Our Slayer is just like Buffy, different name, native to Faerun. We decided we wanted the baby's mother gone and the father alone so we came up with this. I wrote a lot more about the baby when she grew up, and the father in later stories but all of those are very very long and I don't have time to upload them right now.

As always constructive criticism is appreciated.

The moon was full and the Ardeep was filled with the night sounds usual in a forest of ancient trees and hidden paths. The tree by which he stood was young, recently planted and coaxed into a hastened growth by elven magic. The tree was the only one of its kind in this forest. Rare as the lone oak was, something rarer still was buried beneath it.

Xavier waited patiently. It was not yet time. The moon had yet to reach its zenith and the spell yet to be completed. He was used to waiting. Patience was bred into his bones in life and now in his unlife.

The dark robed figure sank down to a relaxed kneeling position and though his eyes remained watchful, his thoughts turned to the not so far past.

"She is not Tel'Quessir." Though the voice was no louder than a murmur it was filled with all the outrage of a shout.

Xavier shrugged. "She is of half elven heritage." He said in his quiet voice. His eyes glowed eerily from within the depths of his hood.

"She is Not Tel'Quessir." The elf repeated more emphatically.

Privately Xavier wondered with how much more intensity could the priest saturate his words before he stooped to the level of raising his voice to make his point. "She is the Chosen One." His words conveyed absolute certainty and allowed no room for argument.

"But she—" another elf began to speak and cut off her own words as the glowing eyes shifted in her direction. "How can she be?" The priestess asked.

Xavier repressed the urge to roll his eyes and his shoulders lifted in a shrug beneath his dark grey robes. The council had become fixated on this one, relatively minor, point of contention. Never before had one of the Chosen been of dubiously diluted elven heritage. Always they had been elves whose blood, if not of distinguished nobility, could be traced back in a line unbroken by human ancestors. This Chosen was, obviously, different. She was the daughter of a gold elf noble, and she was very young, even more so by elven standards, not even having finished her third decade.

"She can't possibly be the Chosen One." The first priest said firmly. "There must be some mistake." Pale green eyes met glowing yellow with equal firmness. "There is some mistake."

Xavier simply shook his head. "There is no mistake. She is the Chosen One." At the priests sharp intake of breath, most probably in preparation for further objection, Xavier's voice grew sharper. He had served all his life and now longer than this council had lived, he had been among the first Council created and would, Seldarine will it so, be there when the Council and the Slayers were no longer needed. Centuries and age beyond even elven comprehension echoed behind the words he spoke. "She is the Chosen One. She is the Slayer."

"But she is not—" The priest began the same objection again.

"Not Tel'Quessir." Xavier finished. "Not according to you." He looked around the table at the Council members. All of them were priests of the Seldarine, one representing each god or goddess. Once he had been one of them, now he was released from the duties of priesthood and served in another capacity. "I remind you, once again, that I do not choose the Slayer." He said in an almost humorous voice. "I merely teach and Watch. I guide and prepare." The ancient laughter that rippled beneath his words grew stronger. "You all know that the Seldarine choose the Slayer. If you have some objection as to the purity of her blood, take it up with them."

Absolute silence seemed to thunder and echo about the table and Xavier rose. "If you have no further questions for me, I will go see about initiating our new Slayer. Something tells me I'm in for a most unusual few decades."

The council was still silent and remained so for long after the baelnorn lef

Xavier looked up through the trees at the moon. The blue silver orb was not quite overhead. He contemplated the oak tree before him. One of the strongest trees uninfluenced by magic. The woman who slept beneath would have to be just as strong. A chuckle floated over the air as he remembered his first conversation with her. He had no doubt as to her strength.

The fever made it difficult for Zoae to breathe. She forced her eyes open and with a stubbornness she was noted for took another gasping breath of air. Her eyes focused on the babe that lay in the cradle nearby. Her babe. She had to keep breathing, the tiny babe needed her.

A figure moved in the doorway and a smile curved her lips for a moment. The tall silver-haired elf who stood there needed her too. She and the child were the most important things in the world to him, more important than the dead moonblade she knew he was never without, though he didn't wear it on his belt.

"I'm going to get a healer." The elf's beautiful voice was anguished. "Why did I let you convince me you were well enough for travel?" He castigated himself. "You are worse than ever, even now that we've settled you here."

"I'll be fine." Zoae smiled, her voice a whisper. "I just need to catch my breath."

"You're not fine." He retorted. "You're burning with fever." Amber eyes glittered with a feverish intensity that had nothing to do with sickness.

"I'll be fine." Zoae repeated stubbornly. She cast a look at the sleeping baby. "Isn't she beautiful Elaith?" She asked in a dreamy soft voice. "Our Sabine."

The baby woke and opened violet eyes that seemed huge in her face, very like her mothers. The fuzz of pale gold curls were so pale they might have been silver. She regarded them both solemnly and then kicked and waved her tiny hands in the air looking at her parents again to see how impressed they were with her new trick.

"Yes." Elaith replied hoarsely. "She's beautiful, our hearts desire." He carefully picked the babe up, she was still tiny against his hands, and cradled her in one arm. With his free hand he supported Zoae so she could sit up to hold the child.

The baby immediately nuzzled her face against her mother's breast and opened her mouth to eat. When she met only fabric instead of skin and milk she opened her eyes and seemed to glare up at her mother in outrage. A tiny cry of command emerged from her tiny pink mouth and she waved her hands again.

"She's hungry." Zoae smiled and her fingers fumbled at the laces of her shift. Elaith smiled slightly and his hands nimbly untied the bow at her collarbone, parting the shift so his child could nurse.

"She certainly knows what she wants." He commented as his child opened her tiny mouth and fastened tightly onto her source of food.

"Like her father." Zoae retorted wryly. She watched as the child's eyes drifted closed, suckling contentedly.

"I can recall being just as content as she, in a similar effort. Food was not an end result though I had thoughts of living with you as my sole nourishment, if only I could attain it in such a fashion." Elaith said wickedly and smiled as his golden-haired lover blushed.

The two of them watched in companionable silence as the baby nursed and was burped and laid back in her cradle. The tiny rosebud mouth trembled for a moment as if contemplating a protest at such a lack of worshipful attention but seemed to decide it wasn't a worthwhile effort and slipped into peaceful sleep.

Zoae sighed and seemed to sag against her pillows. She was so tired. Elaith's eyes narrowed speculatively. "I'm going to get a healer." He repeated. "We decided to risk the journey so you would both be safe. Not so that you could exhaust yourself."

Violet eyes looked at him and smiled. "Elaith, childbirth can be hard on the body, I'm told. It takes time to recover."

"I'm going for a healer." Elaith said again and she nodded resolutely. Satisfied with her agreement he left the room.

Zoae closed her eyes. She would try to sleep while Elaith was gone.

Xavier drifted soundlessly into the room and sat down on the bed. Weary violet eyes opened and looked at him. Her mouth dropped open in shock and she would have spoken if he hadn't held up his hand. "I am not here to harm you Zoaestrilia Floshin, handfasted mate of Elaith Craulnober, and mother to Sabine Craulnober." He spoke her name and status with ritualistic solemnity. That more than anything seemed to reassure her.

"Then what do you want?" She asked softly, not wishing to wake the baby.

"I need to ask you some questions." Xavier replied. "One very important question in particular." He looked at the child. "You are blessed in your child." He said in a warmer tone. Xavier remembered his own children fondly and still enjoyed watching all young things, even knowing they would die before him, they were why he had taken up this duty.

"What question?" Zoae whispered. She smiled and looked at her child. "Thank you."

"Do you want to live?" Xavier asked. His tone was strangely intense. "How much do you want to live?"

Zoae looked from her baby, not quite a year old, to the undead elf before her. "You can look at her, and ask me that? Foolish question that." She said in a near hiss.

"I mean, your life, apart from all the people you love within it. How much does your own life mean to you?" Xavier asked. "I ask you this because you and I both know that you are dying. Your child's father does not wish to admit this, but you and I know."

"It is for them, that I have lived this long." Zoae whispered. Xavier didn't know if it was the fever or her sleeping child that faded her voice. "I felt the fever nearly take me nine months ago. Sabine would not have lived long without me to nurse her. And Elaith needs us both." She looked at Xavier. "I want to live, badly, for them. For me?" Her shoulders lifted wearily. "I want to live."

Xavier nodded his understanding. The call of Arvandor, the afterlife, was strong sometimes even for those who were half elven, but most could resist if there was a reason compelling enough. In her mate and child Zoae had found reason to stay, but it wouldn't be enough. "And if you could live, but without your family, your mate, your child and friends, would you?"

Zoae stared at him. "Without them, would it be life? Or mere existence?" She asked in a horrified voice.

Xavier nearly chuckled. Even as sick as she was, days away from death, she had the strength of will to argue with him. She would make a strong Slayer if she chose the path. "You would live," he paused. "but to serve the Seldarine, and the Tel'Quessir."

Zoae's eyes drifted closed again and her delicate hand clenched into a fist. Looking at him again she took as deep a breath as she was able. "Like you?" She asked in a carefully neutral tone.

"No." Xavier shook his head. "The life of the baelnorn is not for many. I chose freely to serve the People and the Seldarine as such. It is the duty I have undertaken. Yours would be different."

"Different." She tasted the word. "How?"

"You would be cut off, as I said, from all you know. You would be dead to them. In fact you will die, but the Seldarine will give you life again, to serve your people if you choose." Xavier said quietly. "You have the potential, if you agree, to be the Chosen One. The Slayer." He gave her a moment to take that in. "There are elves who so despise the undead that regardless of their talent or profession they devote much of their lives to the destruction of unlife. They are called Undead Slayers. It is a grim, cold, difficult life, with little joy." He watched her carefully. "The Seldarine and their priests, have long fought the undead, especially the sentient undead, liches, vampires, and such. They Choose someone who is about to die, to become the Slayer, someone special, and they give the Chosen strength and power. The Chosen One, the Slayer, is the weapon of the Seldarine and he or she is what all the other mundane slayers hope to become someday. The Chosen is just as much a symbol as a weapon, someone who can fight the most powerful undead, and has a chance to win, and survive the triumph."

Zoae listened in silence and her gaze never left Xavier's eyes. "And you're telling me that if I agree. If I say yes. Then I'll die, and I can't ever see my family or anyone I love again, and I'll be fighting the Undead until they kill me?" She seemed a little irritated. "What if I do get killed, do I finally get to die then?"

"Well, yes." Xavier nodded. "The Slayer cannot be turned." He used the old expression for being made undead. Zoae's face was mutinous. "Or until your Term of Service is complete." He added smoothly.

"My what?" Zoae asked with almost dangerous calm.

"Term of Service." Xavier repeated. "Normally the Chosen are elves. They die for whatever reason, but relatively young. The Seldarine, in recognition of what the elf is doing for the People, reward the Chosen by extending his or her life beyond the time of service. Usually the length of time served is from twenty to thirty years, depending on the elf and the situation, with ten years of training before hand. Our gods love their children very much, they don't wish to torment us, and the elves are not meant for an eternity of such grim work. If you survive your Service to them, you will not have aged, you will have the rest of your natural life ahead of you."

"You don't by chance follow the Lady Luck?" Zoae asked in a hoarse voice. "It sounds like the mother of all gambles."

Xavier was surprised into a chuckle. "It is." He admitted. "But even if you die during your service as a Slayer, it is more life than you will have if you do not agree. You can feel your end coming." He was certain.

Zoae nodded. "Yes. Elaith knows it too, for all he won't admit it." She sighed. "I worry about him, more than I do Sabine." She cast a loving glance at her daughter. "So to make a long story short. If I agree, I will die, and the Seldarine will give me life again, and for the next forty or so years I will have to fight the undead, and then I get my life back, unless I am killed." She offered the baelnorn a wry smile. "So what's the catch?"

Xavier shrugged his shoulders. "You must agree and mean it from your deepest heart." He warned her.

Zoae looked at her daughter. "I don't want her growing up in a world swarming with undead. I want a safe world for her, even if I can't be a mother to her, I could do that for her. I could do that for Elaith and my family. For me," she shrugged. "it would be easier to give up if it was just for me. But for the people I love, and for the Tel'Quessir, I could do this." She looked at Xavier again. "If I agree for those reasons, would it be enough?"

Xavier smiled. "Greater love hath no man, than he who would lay down his life for his friend." He quoted softly. "Those are the reasons of all those before you. For the love of others, not themselves." He smiled though she couldn't see it deep within his hood. "You are among good company Zoaestrilia Floshin." He tilted his head regarding her. "Then you agree?"

"How long do I have?" She asked quietly.

"I see your end coming very soon." Xavier said without hesitation.

"But will I live long enough to ensure that my child will survive?" Zoae asked in determination. "I can resist as long as I must, no matter how strong the call of Arvandor, she must live."

Xavier summoned up all his past experiences with children and looked at the child evaluating her age and strength. "She is nearly a year." He said consideringly. "She will be able to survive on goat or cow's milk." He nodded. "She's a strong little thing. Her human blood no doubt tempers her strength." He regarded the half elven mother with new respect believing she truly could resist death until she was certain her baby would live. Of this woman he could believe nearly anything.

Zoae sank back into her pillows and tears trickled down her face. "I agree." She whispered finally. "I agree."

"I will see you again." Xavier said quietly in farewell. He made no sound as he drifted out of the room.

Xavier rose and stood by the oak. Elaith had deliberately planted a tree not native to this forest, in order to mark Zoae's grave. The tree would survive what would happen in the next few minutes as the moon reached its height.

The ground trembled faintly and a hand shot up through the earth, clawing at the air. Fingers raked the ground and a slender figure climbed out of the hole shaking off dirt and grass. Torn clothing revealed a small brand on her right shoulder. The mark resembled a small triangular dagger within a circle.

Xavier smiled and drew a something resembling a short sword from within his robes. "The Slayer has risen." He said quietly. "I am the Watcher. My name is Xavier, and I will teach you how to destroy the undead." He handed her the object and a grime covered hand grasped the hilt. "We will begin with that, after you have cleaned up. Come with me Zoaestrilia, I've prepared a place for you to rest."

She looked down at what he'd handed her. A gleaming length of oak, smoothed and shaped and polished, a wooden short sword. "You know Xavier, my friends call me Zoae." She said as she followed him. "And I am curious about something."

Xavier inquired in a noncommittal voice. "And what was that?"

"Why does the Slayer actually die?" Zoae asked almost hesitantly. "Why not simply extend the life of whoever it is? Why let them die and then bring them back? I mean, why not just give them a really bad cold or something." Her tone was so ingenuous that Xavier wasn't sure if she was serious or being facetious.

The baelnorn almost smiled. "Several reasons Zoae." He said as he followed an almost nonexistent path. "The first being that the Slayer must experience death in order to have less fear of it. The second being that if there are any reservations on the part of the Chosen, the journey to Arvandor continues, serious reservations that would effect the elf's service. And the third, and from the perspective of some the most important reason is…" He paused for a moment. "Death severs all bonds. The slayer must die, so that all those who love her, were joined to her, can mourn and go on with their lives. In this way the Slayer is alone, and must come to terms with being alone, during the course of her training, and thus finds her true strength."

"But you said that the Slayer gets to go on with his or her life after the Service is complete." Zoae noticed she was talking in capitals as Xavier did and wondered what else she'd pick up from the baelnorn. "All those people just get another shock when he or she comes back?"

Xavier turned and looked at her. "It would be better to let them know what is happening? For her to believe that she can go back, visit, bring the danger on them perhaps? For her loved ones to exist in limbo, torn between going on with their lives and waiting for her? The guilt they must feel to go on, the anger at her if they do not do so?"

"I get it." Zoae said softly. "Better for the Slayer to be alone, and learn to deal. And for them to get a nice surprise later, if she lives."

"Zoae, the Slayer must be as one dead." Xavier said patiently and not unkindly. "In this way, she also has a tiny inkling of the incredible loneliness the sentient undead seek to assuage when they are not truly evil, and also a bit of the way they think. The Slayer cannot be part of the lives of those she once knew, better that the break be complete. Better for you. You also, are spared the guilt of not being part of your family's life. Knowing you can do nothing for them also absolves you of the responsibility you might feel for their actions."

Zoae muttered rebelliously. "I guess."

Xavier looked at her and his voice was sharper. "Zoae, no matter what, you would have died. If you had gone to Arvandor you would be just as cut off from them. By becoming the Slayer you are fighting for them. But you are just as dead and cut off from their world." He finished in a softer voice that was almost consoling. "As am I."

Zoae looked at him in astonishment and realized that the baelnorn was older than she could imagine and had no respite from the life he led. She nodded her understanding finally and as they continued on began to talk of things she'd seen in the forests like this one, in order to cover up a potentially uncomfortable silence.

Xavier listened to the stream of chatter that bubbled from her lips. He'd been right when he told the Council she was unusual. He pulled something else out of his robes and looked at it for a moment. Then he threw it into the fire that he'd left burning in a pit.

"What was that?" Zoae asked curiously looking down at the ashes.

"Nothing that would be of any use to you Zoae." Xavier said dryly. He watched making sure the book was completely ashes. It hadn't taken long after meeting Zoae for him to believe that the Slayers Handbook would do her little good. She was unique, the Handbook was of no use whatsoever to her. Amusement brightened his glowing gaze. He was indeed in for an interesting few decades as he'd told the council. He would begin as he meant to go on. He lifted his head and his glowing eyes stared into her violet orbs. "Shall we begin?"

The new Slayer nodded, with more firmness than she actually felt, and at his gesture to sit, prepared herself to begin her new life.