Four years before the troubles in Waterdeep came to a head, Halem (going by the name of ‘Jon’) was working in Linaeth’s Elven Fairs in Baldur’s Gate. On that particular day, he was smiling and nodding while barely listening as his customer, an elf named Rilynn, outlined why the curved elven blade she’d purchased the day before was not exactly what she was looking for and why she was hoping to exchange it for something. The first day she had come in, he had been extremely attentive and had thought that he had found her exactly what she wanted. At that time, it was a small buckler shield she was shopping for. She had seemed very appreciative and had smiled a lot as she paid for her purchase. Then she had come back the next day, apologizing and explaining that it wasn’t quite right.
He’d been slightly annoyed, but played his part as the dutiful store clerk, smiled pleasantly, and did everything he could to help her find something that was more to her liking. Weirdly, Rilynn had come back for third time, though now she wanted to exchange her new shield for a sword. The following day, she wanted the curved sword instead of a straight sword. And now she didn’t like the curved blade either.
He had complained briefly to Linaeth – the owner of the store and his boss – about Rilynn’s inability to make up her damn mind, but she only smiled and shook her head with an amused sort of twinkle in her eye.
“The customer is always right, Jon,” Linaeth had told him. “Spend as much time as you need with her so we can be sure she walks away satisfied. Rilynn has a lot of ties with the elven community in the surrounding area. Besides, she’s a good friend and I want her taken care of.”
And that was that. Linaeth wanted him to do what he could to make the ridiculously indecisive elf happy, so that’s what he had to do.
“I’m so sorry about all this Jon,” Rilynn said with an apologetic smile as she briefly touched his arm. “You really have been extremely kind to keep helping me. I’m sure it’s a bother, but I want to make sure I get something I can keep for a long time and pass on to my children, should I ever find someone to have them with.”
Halem shrugged. He’d been pretending to be “Jon” for so many months that it wasn’t very hard to swallow the biting sarcasm that would normally have come out of his mouth. “I don’t mind at all,Miss Rilynn,” he told her with a smile that he didn’t feel. “I just want to make sure that you are satisfied with your purchase.”
“Please, call me Rily,” Rilynn said sweetly, leaning in a little closer. “All of my friends do.”
Halem felt his smile falter slightly. He felt the briefest flash of what seemed to be insight, but he just couldn’t accept what his brain was telling him was happening. It was stupid, but he was certain he had seen Lila lean in towards Rheagar in a very similar fashion.
“Um… sure, uh, Rily,” Halem replied awkwardly, feeling his cheeks heat up. “So, if, uh, the sword isn’t what you want, what would be better?”
Rilynn’s smile brightened. “Well, I was thinking that while my father and brothers have all favored the sword, my great-grandfather was an extremely accomplished bowman. I thought a bow would be nice way to honor him. He was a hero in this area for a long time.”
Halem didn’t really care. “That’s very interesting,” he said with a smile. “We did get a few bows in just the other day. At least one of them came out of some ruins to the northeast, I think. I didn’t look too closely, but it seemed to be an excellent piece.”
He walked into the back, instantly located the bow, and then sat for a few minutes trying to tell himself that he was wrong about Rilynn. When he lost that battle, he instead turned his thoughts to why he should care. After all, she was certainly attractive and he didn’t hate spending time with her, aside from the fact that she kept coming back for reasons that he hadn’t understood until that moment. She was, perhaps, a little old for him, but that was only because he still wasn’t entirely used to the idea of being in his father’s body. She couldn’t be much over 200 and, if they weirdly ended up together, they would have centuries together before either of them even started to look “old.”
Despite that, the thought of becoming involved with her made Halem feel uncomfortable. It felt as though he were breaking some law that he couldn’t put his finger on.
He shrugged and set the matter aside. He could only hide for so long before it started to seem cowardly. With a sigh, he picked up the bow and headed back out.
“Here it is, exactly as I thought,” he told her with a grin that was supposed to let her know what a good find it was. He turned it over in his hand, displaying the craftsmanship. “Notice the intricate carvings where the upper limb and grip meet. Under normal circumstances, this should have weakened the pull on the bow, but,” he let it settle easily into his hands and drew the string back in one smooth motion, “it has lost none of the tension.”
Halem was positive that Rilynn’s eyes were not on the bow.
“You handle it like an expert,” she told him with an appraising look.
Halem relaxed his arm quickly. “Well, I guess I’m okay,” he replied sheepishly.
“I wish I could have taken lessons from my great-grandfather, but he was always off on some sort of treasure hunt or taking care of a giant that was threatening a settlement.” She paused and then asked, “Do you think you could give me some lessons?”
“I’m, uh, not sure I’d be a very good teacher,” Halem replied, backing away and setting the bow down on a nearby table. “Plus, I’m pretty busy here. Linaeth is getting a shipment fro—”
“Jon, I’m giving you the day off tomorrow,” Linaeth’s voice called from the backroom.
And then everything fell into place for Halem. He’d wondered why Linaeth let Rilynn keep coming back and exchanging the previous purchase for something new and why she’d insisted that he take care of her despite the fact that the two women were friends. It was the sort of setup Lila would have masterminded.
He was trapped and had no choice but to agree.
“Looks like we’re having a lesson tomorrow,” he told Rilynn in a voice that he hoped hid how annoying of a chore he considered the whole thing.
“Thank you so much! This really means a lot to me!”
She took the bow, paid the difference between it and the sword she was returning and then headed out of the store, looking back as she walked through the door and smiling happily one last time at him.
“Congratulations on the sale,” Linaeth said as she came out from the backroom.
“Fifth time’s the charm, I suppose.”
“Well, hopefully she will be more than satisfied with the bow and the lessons.”
Halem rolled his eyes. “Is it safe to assume that this whole thing was a set up?”
“I’m sure that I have no idea what you are talking about,” Linaeth laughed. “Though, now that you mention it, Rily has asked about you a few times. Plus, she’s single and very sweet. A man would have to be crazy not to be interested in her.”
Halem gave a noncommittal grunt.
Linaeth was quiet for a long time, absentmindedly wiping off the counter and straightening a few daggers that were displayed there.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she said eventually. “I didn’t mean to put any pressure on you, but you don’t really seem to have any friends in town other than that gem merchant, Featherstone. You’ve been in Baldur’s Gate for almost a year and you don’t seem to care about anything other than running the store. Not that I don’t appreciate your dedication, but I don’t want you to be a shut in.”
“I’m not really looking for a…. relationship,” Halem told her keeping his eyes firmly on the door, trying to will a customer to come through it and save him from the conversation.
“Sometimes good things come along when we aren’t looking for them.”
Halem nodded slowly. “I’ll… I’ll give her the lessons and try to keep an open mind,” he said at last, not completely sure if he was telling the truth or not.
“I guess that’s all I can ask.”
At that moment, a customer walked through the door and Halem practically launched himself at the poor dwarf.
True to his word, he did give Rilynn bowmanship lessons. He even had dinner with her a few times and spent an extremely uncomfortable afternoon hiking in the woods with her. She was very pleasant, accepting what she interpreted as shyness and going slow with him. After three weeks of spending time with her, Halem could bring himself to hold her hand, but found that he could not move beyond that. He saw plenty of opportunities to move the relationship forward, but never took them.
Though she never said anything or gave any indication of impatience with him, Halem was certain that Rilynn was frustrated by how slow things were developing. Clearly Lineath was hearing about it, however, as she often made small comments that he was certain were meant to encourage him to be more forward.
Ultimately, the relationship was doomed and, though it took him a while, Halem eventually understood why. Were he in his own body, he probably could have returned Rilynn’s feelings, but he was not. This was Erim’s body and Halem couldn’t bring himself to use it in that way. He wanted to honor his father and the sacrifice that Erim had made to save him. Despite being the current resident of Erim’s body, Halem did not – and never would – feel completely at home there.
Five years later, he would find himself back in Waterdeep, walking next to the body that had temporarily housed his soul. While he was still not where he was supposed to be, he had already noticed the weight of responsibility vanishing from his shoulders.
“I didn’t kill her because she’s obviously in love with you,” Erim told Halem as they left his father’s treasury.
Halem had no idea what his father was talking about. The last woman he had seen with his father had been Lila. “Yeeeaahh,” he said, drawing the word out, “Lila isn’t in love with me. She’s like a sister and married on top of that.”
Erim rolled his eyes. “Not her. I meant the other one. The one with hips.”
“Ah, well that narrows it down, since I know so many women without hips.”
Erim’s hand shot out and cuffed Halem on the back of the head. Not hard and there almost seemed to be an affectionate smile on his face, but it was still enough to hurt. “Stopping being stupid and deal with the girl, one way or the other.”
“I still have no idea who you are talking about,” Halem replied, dancing out of the way as Erim’s hand lashed out again, this time with more force. “Also, this is a weird conversation. Can we please drop it?”
Erim shook his head, but mercifully let the subject go.
Halem fell into thought as the two picked their way down the side of the mountain, following an almost invisible trail.
Obviously his father was talking about Alora. Thinking about her brought up thoughts of Rilynn in Baldur’s Gate and his reluctance to get involved romantically with anyone in the last fire years. The same was probably true of the young witch who was, somehow, even more forward than Rilynn. In the last few months, as he had gotten to know Alora, he had been somewhat flattered and more than a little annoyed by her attention. Generally, he tried to pretend he didn’t notice her gaze and ignored the comments she made. When she had walked in on him in the bath, he had purposefully pretended that he didn’t care what she saw. After all, nothing could happen. It was Erim’s body and Halem would not use it that way.
He felt no such compulsions to honor Jurisk, but he’d had five years of practice at not getting involved or opening himself up to anything beyond a platonic relationship. Aside from one night of too much wine when he went to the Temple of Calistra for information about Alora’s family (a night that he had spent almost a week mentally berating himself over), he had never so much as looked at a woman in a romantic way. He was not entire sure if he was even capable of getting beyond that mental huddle at this point.
If Abbott Caen were still alive, Halem would have gone to him for advice, but he was gone and Halem didn’t think he could talk to Pan or Lila or anyone else about this issue. For the time being, he would simply continue as he had and hoped that it all worked out.
After six years of adventuring, he’d found that things generally seemed to take care of themselves eventually…
…and he was just going to have to pretend that he wasn’t on his third body in that same amount of time!