Author's note: A short story, this time, and it closes the circle on Rain's return to Candlekeep. Thank you so much again to everyone reading and reviewing the story, and I hope you have enjoyed this little window into Kivan and Rain's future.
CANDLEKEEP – PART III
"Stay with me."
There were some words, some things that needed to be said, that were so important, so monumental, that the very world hung upon them.
For Kivan, they were the most important words of his life.
"Stay with me. Don't go."
He had never been good at long speeches or needless, unnecessary talk. In the stillness of a perfect silence, he could watch, listen. Assess. Learn the lie of the land and the creatures around him, or gauge the motives of the people he met, their true intentions. Such was his nature. For a very long time, more than sixteen years, his actions had spoken more loudly than words, and it had taken Rain to gently draw him out, to restore his faith in himself and his self-worth.
But at the Throne of Bhaal, with Rain on the cusp of making her final decision – whether to step up and claim her father's power, to claim her immortal destiny, or throw it all aside to remain with him – Kivan found his hoarse, whispered words, his heartfelt plea for her to stay.
He had a clear, vivid memory of her: the moment that she had chosen his love, chosen him, and refused her ascension.
He was hunched over on the cold, otherworldly platform suspended in the vast, black depths of the abyssal realm, the plane's whirling, screaming forces hurtling about himself and Rain, battering his already-brutalised body. He had lost so much blood; it spilled, hot and scarlet, through his trembling fingers, from the slippery, bloodied hand that he had pressed to his broken ribs, beneath his ravaged scale armour. Were it not for Rain, steadying him with her arm around his lacerated shoulders, he would have collapsed to the blood-soaked stone. His awareness was already slipping from him in dizzy layers. His vision began to blur, darkening at the edges, and the strange, eerie green glow from the channelled Bhaalspawn essences filled his head, breaking over him in a sickening wave.
Kivan's heart lurched; he was weakening, and quickly. Doggedly, he shrugged off the death that was slinking up on him, and narrowed his focus to Rain, blinking past his misting vision to gaze at her worried, blood-smeared face where she knelt beside him.
She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
With Amelyssan defeated, Rain was caught halfway between two worlds, straddling both the mortal and the divine. The starfire spilled from her, uncontained. Her skin was silver, glowing as brightly as it had when she had been a spirit in this realm, and her eyes – too wide, with a touch of wildness that Kivan had come to expect in the fey – were that hot, luminous gold, brimming with unknowable, unimaginable power. Her loose hair floated around them both in red streamers. She held him close, fierce and protective, and pushed a wad of scarlet-stained wool, torn from her own sleeve, to the gouged, mortal wound that began at his neck, ebbing out his life.
"Rain." He whispered her name through cracked, bleeding lips, tasting his own blood. She looked at him with her anxious golden eyes, and the silver warmth of her was so close, enveloping him with her starfire light. Though she heard him, and he could feel her tender, painful love through the elven Spirit between them, even in this dark place, she was also aware of something else, being courted by the racing, celestial energies that whipped around the plane. He could sense that clearly, even in his dazed, light-headed state.
"Beloved," he breathed, his voice growing fainter. It was an effort now to talk. His breaths were shorter, his chest laboured, and he could feel a coldness spreading through his abused limbs as his blood leaked crimson through the saturated cloth in her hand. She swallowed thickly, tears springing to her fearful, blazing eyes.
In a last show of strength, Kivan lifted his shaking hand from his ribs and laid his wet fingers against the sharp plane of her cheek, cupping Rain's beautiful, silver face with all the deep, aching love that he still had to give.
"Heart of my heart," he whispered, naming her. "Stay with me. Don't go. Remain mortal with me." He winced with the terrible agony burning in his raw, flayed skin, his raised arm trembling violently, but he did not waver, steadfastly pushing through the pain. Rain gripped him tighter, choking back a sharp, frantic sound. "I love you, Rain," he told her softly, his longing flowing to her, tender and full. "You are all that matters. I have nothing to give you, nothing but myself, but I will make you very happy, I swear it." His weak fingers caressed her cheek, smearing the blood over her skin. "I have told you before that I keep my promises, beloved," he said to her, the truth of it resonating in his blood and bones, "and this promise I make to you, Rain: you will always be mine, and our future together will be bright."
His voice cracked; his words broke. His strength was nearly spent. Moving his faltering hand, he gently slipped his fingers into the russet cloud of her hair and pulled her closer to him, so that his bloodied, seeking lips rested against her iridescent, pointed chin.
"Just stay with me," he pleaded against her burning skin, his rasping words catching in his throat. "Say you will, my Rosa."
Rain dragged in an uneven breath. "Kivan," she whispered raggedly, her tears hot where they leaked down his gashed cheek and nose. She kissed his sticky brow, fiercely, and drew back from him, just enough to fix him with an intense, determined look, her eyes blazing a ferocious gold.
"You do not need to fear, my heart," she told him, her fingers clenching in his shoulder. She held that cloth so firmly to his vicious wound, stemming the flow of blood. "There is no choice for me but you. I have not come all this way to give you up now."
Swiftly, she turned her head, looking back to where the Solar stood over Amelyssan's crushed, broken body, crumpled at the very foot of the column of sparking, violent light that she had craved. It was Bhaal's essence. The power the Solar was offering Rain. Squinting, his head giddy with blood-loss and a heady, dizzy relief, Kivan tried to focus on the celestial being, his vision blurring on the Solar's snaking, golden locks, and her light-filled, proud eyes.
"I don't want it," Rain said heatedly, her voice sure and sharp. "I don't want my father's power. I never have. Take it, Solar, and free me of the taint." She clutched Kivan desperately to her, supporting his limp, slumping body, and made her final demand. "Save him," she said hoarsely, her own voice grinding on a shaky, halting note. "Save him," she whispered again, pleading. "Please. He is the love of my life; don't take him from me, I beg you." Her voice broke again, and Kivan murmured to her soothingly, closing his feeble, slick fingers over her own, feeling the tremor in her hand where she staunched his wound.
"Then let it be done."
The Solar's gentle, accepting voice was the last thing Kivan heard in that unnatural, immortal realm. His vision swam, and his sight faded to a deep, impenetrable black. He felt rather than heard Rain's sudden, tortured gasp, and she convulsed against him, arching her spine in utter, blind agony. Her pain slammed into him through the Spirit, overtaking his own. Instinctively, with the last of his will, he threw his arms around her and took her with him to the bloodied floor, rolling himself around her protectively as her father's dark taint was torn from her, leaching the scorching starfire from her divine soul.
There was a long, suspended pause.
A hot, molten hand touched his blood-matted hair, and he felt the whisper of the Solar's farewell in his stunned, wondering mind.
His dreadful wounds closed over; life rushed back in.
Rain was in his arms, and she was safe, alive.
She was his.
There were some words that were for himself and Rain, only to be heard by the Solar, and their companions who had survived their final confrontation with Amelyssan. They were not for the prelate and his scribe. It was enough for Kivan that their tale ended with Rain choosing love, and that he was saved, and that both Rain and Imoen were now free of Bhaal's taint, carrying his dark seed no longer. If Aldith still could not understand why Rain had refused her destiny, still perplexed, then it didn't matter to Kivan. He knew Rain's heart, and he knew his own, and nothing more needed to be said. To Candlekeep's prelate, anyway.
Now, he looked long at Rain, standing with him at their small chamber's only window, his hand resting intimately on her warm, bare shoulder as she stared down at the tossing, restless sea, breaking against the cliffs. She had pushed the glass casement out wide and the night flooded in, drowning them both in the pure, white light of a waxing moon. Her skin was silver; as luminous as she had been in his memory of her at the Throne of Bhaal, but now iridescent with moonlight, not starfire. The wisp of cream silk that she wore glowed softly, giving off a faint, shimmering radiance. Her eyes were dark and deep. She stirred, coming back from her own recollections, and Kivan smiled at her fondly and pressed his bare chest into her back, shivering a little as her fall of soft hair slid across his skin.
He put the pad of his forefinger to the thin strap of satin that curled over Rain's shoulder, securing her silk slip. He traced it gently, exploring it.
"Was this what you needed?" he asked her softly, seeing the answering shift in her expression as she angled her head to look back at him. "The meeting with the prelate?"
Rain turned so that she could consider him properly. Lifting her slender, moonlit hands to his neck, she slid her fingers beneath his curls and cupped his nape, gazing at him thoughtfully. "Yes," she said, and she was very serious. "I didn't know it when we first arrived at the gates, but yes. I think it was the right thing to do, for both Imoen and myself, to set the record straight here, where we grew up. Perhaps some good will come of this. I have said my farewells, and I can leave here now with a lighter heart."
Kivan nodded, warm and satisfied with Rain's new sense of closure. Inhaling a long, deep breath, he wrapped his arms, very snugly, around her narrow waist, and pulled her suggestively to him, so that her hips were fitted neatly to his breeches. He looked into her shadowed, night eyes, deeply, and knew his own feelings were written clearly on his face, stark and open.
"Tomorrow," he whispered to her huskily, "we will leave here and go north, back to Baldur's Gate. We have unfinished business there," he added in a rich, low tone when Rain arched a curious brow at him.
"Oh?" she said, looking up at him. She twined her arms more closely around his neck. A warm, sensual light was kindling in her eyes; a look that Kivan knew very, very well. His mouth curved in a slow, languid smile.
"There is the matter of the ribbons I promised you," he reminded her, "and we are not quite done with the Elfsong." His smile widened; his eyes glinted with mischief.
Now he had her very intrigued. Rain stretched up onto her toes, brushing cool, slippery silk over the scarred breadth of his chest. "Is that so," she murmured, winding her arms tighter. She brought her warm, adventuring lips to his throat, beginning to follow the lines of his flowing tattoo with soft, whispery kisses.
"Mmpgh." He made a sound that was partly pleasure, partly strangled. He had started this game, but it was already becoming hard to think past the rapid pounding of his blood. "At the Elfsong, a certain someone once ordered me out of my cloak and boots." His voice was thick, and he had to swallow tightly before continuing. "I intend to return the favour."
Rain laughed softly, a delighted sound, and pulled back from him gently to look at him in the moonlight. Her smile was infectious and warm. "And if that certain someone is as stubborn as a particular ranger I know…?" she asked, deliberately letting her voice trail off expectantly, her brows raised in question.
Kivan grinned at her, already considering the possibilities. "Then I will just have to take them off for her," he said with smoky, smug confidence, "and bend her to my will."
Her laughter was bright and amused, her sea-eyes sparkling. "I look forward to it," she promised him, beautifully, and gave him a lovely, inviting smile. Holding his eyes, never looking away, she slipped her arms from his neck and reached for the thong tying his single braid, pulling out both the berries and the leather knot. His heart thudded with anticipation. When her fingers were gently untangling his braid, sunk in his dark curls, Kivan lifted his hand to her silvered cheek and just looked at her, touched with soft wonder at how amazing she was, how she had given up immortality to stay with him.
"When we are done with the Gate," he murmured hoarsely, his voice catching in his throat from intense, powerful emotion, "we will go back to Suldanessellar, as you and I have talked of." His smile turned sweet and dreamy, his eyes dark and yearning where they held hers. "I will build you that cabin, Rain," he whispered, "the one in the forest. I will make it with my own hands, and it will be ours."
Rain smiled at him blissfully, her gaze turning misty in the moonlight. She stood there before him in her pale, glowing silk, her cheek cradled in his hand, and Kivan heard the quickness of her breath, saw the utter love in her eyes. He was complete, he was happy, and he saw their future unfolding clearly before him, filled with more joy than he had ever thought possible.
Kivan took her small, familiar hands in his own and smiled at her tenderly, squeezing her fingers gently between his. "Come to bed?" he asked her softly, giving her a fervent, hopeful look.
Rain stepped in close to him, her hands folded so intimately in his, and raised her mouth for his ardent, searching kiss.
"I thought you would never ask," she whispered against his lips, and her words were nearly lost in the sudden thick, fiery buzzing that filled his head. Swiftly, his blood roaring, Kivan tugged her out of the moonlight and into the shadows, and let the salty, wave-drenched night consume them both, the sea booming up from Candlekeep's cliffs.