The morning sun was warm on Jaheira's back and the stones were rough beneath her hands, but she minded neither. It felt good to be out in the brisk wind, surrounded by the calling of birds and singing of water. She straightened and surveyed her progress. Her henge was coming along nicely. It would be a modest affair, meant for her own use alone. Perhaps someday there would be a need for something grander, but for now, a simple ring of waist-high stones, bordered by a dozen wood poles marking the cardinal points and the quarters would be sufficient. She paused in the positioning of the fifth stone, stretching her arms over her head and glancing up the hill.
The solar had returned them to Amkethran after Melissan's defeat, and after a few days' rest with Balthazar, they made their farewells and headed north. There they found a tentative, anxious peace – the war was over as quickly as it had begun, and where Maera's face was known, they were greeted with awed silence and wide-eyed whispers. No one asked what had become of the other Bhaalspawn. It seemed better left unsaid, and who would have really believed the truth anyway? There were homes to be rebuilt, crops to be harvested, and lives to be lived. There would be no rivers of blood, and that was enough.
At some point before they departed Amkethran, Sarevok had disappeared, and left no sign of his whereabouts. Maera had seemed vaguely disappointed by that, but her spirits could not suppressed for long, for their destination was the Deepwash, and Kelsey's family home. They had descended on the Coltranes in fine form, and there in the garden on a fine autumn day, Jaheira presided over their wedding. She smiled to herself as she rubbed her lower back. It had been a very nice ceremony, if she did say so herself.
And then they had come here. She had to admit that Kelsey had chosen well in his purchase of the place – the house was large and airy, fronted by a cobbled courtyard, and facing a sweep of lightly wooded hills nurtured by a meandering little river. It was not the most magnificent place she had ever seen, either in architecture or landscape, but it was welcoming. There was something generous about the place, and she could feel its kindness in her heart. They had spent the winter furnishing the house (an inordinate amount of Maera's attention being occupied by her library, to no one's surprise), but now it was spring again, and Jaheira wanted to make as much progress on her henge as she could before Maera gave birth.
She picked up her shovel and began the hole for the final stone. "Not long. Not long at all," she said to herself as she dug. Any day now, actually. What a shame, Jaheira thought, that Gorion could not be there to see it. But how would he react to becoming a grandfather? She laughed aloud at the thought. She could have scarcely imagined Gorion as a parent in the first place, but he seemed to have acquitted himself well enough with the child fate had brought him. He had only ever mentioned her in passing in the letters they had exchanged, as if he could never quite bring himself to say everything he felt, but there had been an undercurrent of contentment in their correspondence. He had enjoyed having Maera in his life, and Jaheira couldn't say that she blamed him in the slightest.
It seemed like a lifetime ago, the day Maera had first burst into her life, but it really hadn't been, had it? She could still see her in the great common room of the Friendly Arm Inn, Imoen at her hip like the overwhelmed child she'd been. They had been lost and afraid and looked so desperately young. But they had proven themselves resourceful and quick, and somewhere along the line, Jaheira had found herself providing more advice than orders. She still wasn't entirely sure how that had happened.
When she judged the hole deep enough, she took a moment to rest. Her shoulders were sore and her hands were scraped, but it was a good sort of pain; a pain that came from growing. Each day that passed brought a deeper communion with her small grove, and it whispered to her of the patterns of the land, its rhythm and its cycles. She felt more at peace here than she had in years.
"I still miss you, though," she murmured. "I wish you were here. I think you would like it." She closed her eyes, the wind stirring her hair. "But you will always be in my heart, Khalid, and wherever I am, you're there too."
Everything had its own time. Everything had a beginning, everything had an end. Their adventuring days were, for now, at an end. Maera and Kelsey would obviously be otherwise occupied, and Jaheira likewise had no intention of seeking out the road again in the foreseeable future. It seemed, as Maera had opined, like a good time to stop, and there had been such pleasure in her voice when she said it that Jaheira smiled at the memory.
Imoen and Minsc would be leaving soon, at an undetermined point soon after the baby's birth, fixed upon Baldur's Gate and whatever trouble they could find for themselves there. With no levelheaded oversight involved, Jaheira had no doubt that trouble would cling to them like metal filings to a lodestone. The sisters were attempting to face their imminent separation bravely, but it was no secret they would miss each other deeply. Jaheira had no doubt they would survive it, though; some things were too strong to be broken by mere change.
She sighed and stood. Time to place the next stone. But before she could move it more than a few inches, a voice broke the morning stillness. "Jaheira!"
Kelsey stood at the crest of the hill, calling for her, and the mix of joy and panic in his voice could mean only one thing. Jaheira brushed herself off hastily and set off up the hill at a run. It would seem it was time for a beginning.
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