Joris stalked away from Mystra’s temple without looking back. Idiot! he chided himself. What did you hope to accomplish by coming here? He hasn’t changed. He isn’t going to change…
The familiarity of Silverymoon’s streets did little to comfort Joris, and he soon heard footsteps catching up behind him. He wouldn’t give Prestin the satisfaction of acknowledging his presence… except the steps were too light to belong to his father.
His follower was close now. Joris expected to hear Kalisa’s voice in his ear, but the words belonged to Talan: “My blood family’s all dead, and I’m glad.”
The ranger continued past Joris, not pausing to see the bewildered expression on the cleric’s face.
- – - – -
I’m going to be a father, Joris thought again.
Talan had asked him how it felt, but at the time, it seemed too soon to say. Now, after three solid days of riding through the north of Faerûn without much else to think about, the best answer Joris had come up with was “terrifying.”
He’d made an uneasy peace with the fact that his child would be half-fiendish – an alu-fiend, as the daughters of succubi were known in ancient texts. If her mother could embrace the path of goodness – and he believed that Kalisa would be, in the end – then so could their daughter. It had taken some effort, but Joris had finally convinced himself that the child needn’t turn out like Lady Margone.
No, he was worried because of his own father. Ever since he’d been old enough to contemplate children of his own, he’d been committed to being the father to them that Prestin Crownsilver hadn’t been for him. Unfortunately, knowing what not to do didn’t impart any idea of what to do.
It was a monumental responsibility, and only one among many. He still had to redeem Kalisa, and her pregnancy made it seem all the more urgent. Moreover, shouldn’t he marry her? What would it mean for their daughter to be born out of wedlock? Haden was marrying Sheen – wasn’t he? – not that that should matter… and he had his congregation to think about, not to mention the possibility of reconciling with his own father…
Oh, and there was the copy of Sigil that the baatezu were building. How could his own problems seem so important when eclipsed by such a vast shadow?
It was all too much for Joris. The fantasy that had crossed his mind in Red Larch crossed it again; though his cheeks were already rosy with the cold, he felt more color blooming in them. He tried to push it aside, but the more he tried to ignore it, the more distracting it became.
This is useless, he thought. I’ve got to talk to someone about this, and it can’t wait until I see Kalisa.
The High Forest was quiet, the party moreso. Joris looked at each of them in turn before focusing his attention on Talan. The ranger led the way, but took little notice of his surroundings. He’s troubled, Joris realized, thinking of the words that Talan had whispered to him back on the streets of Silverymoon. Didn’t he grow up here? Is it reminding him of… of what he told me?
Can’t hurt to ask, he decided. He wouldn’t have said anything if he didn’t want to talk about it… would he? Maybe he’ll listen to me, at least.
Joris spurred his horse until he rode alongside Talan, then asked “You’re not really here, are you?” After a moment, Talan nodded, but didn’t look back at him.
“Does this have something to do with your family?” Joris ventured.
That got his attention, but only for a moment. The ranger wasn’t holding eye contact with him. “No. Well, yes. In a way.”
“Did you want to talk about it?” When Talan didn’t answer, Joris added “I’ll tell you about what was bothering me, back in Red Larch.”
Talan perked up a little, only to deflate again. “If you like,” said Talan. “I don’t think it’ll help.”
“It’ll help me.” With a weak smile, Talan gestured for the cleric to continue. “Before I met Sheen, I was traveling with some friends. Jerris, a ranger, and the woman he loved. Lenora.” He had Talan’s complete attention. “I loved her, too… at least, I thought I did. Anyway, they both got killed, and I buried them near Morard’s home.”
“I am terribly sorry,” Talan said with a heavy heart. “Words seem so inadequate.”
“Wait, it gets worse.” Talan’s eyebrows raised, and Joris went on. “So when we got to Red Larch, I thought ‘I can’t do it yet, but someday, I’ll be able to resurrect the both of them.’ Then I started to think that I could just raise Lenora, so I could have her to myself. And I’ve got a woman and a baby on the way. What in the Hells is wrong with me?”
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” said Talan. “You’re just strong enough to be honest with yourself.”
“And with you, I guess. Not that I wanted to burden you or anything, but… see? Now I feel better.”
“It’s no burden.” Talan smiled sadly and looked uncomfortable before blurting out, “There was another woman before Hexla. I loved her, and I’m the one who killed her… this is coming out all wrong.”
Joris searched for the words to get over the wall that had formed around Talan. “Start at the beginning.”
Talan gave Joris a look like a trapped animal, but continued. “She was my sister… not my real sister, but… my mother, she died of despair after I was born, and I was adopted…” Joris tried to keep his face neutral, but Talan shook his head and couldn’t meet the cleric’s eyes any more. “I’m sorry, Joris, I can’t. I just can’t. Maybe you should get me drunk.”
“As soon as we get back. I could use that myself.” The sheepish look lifted from Talan’s face, and they continued on their path to the cave.