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Behind the Hunger

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They don't get it. They don't. Safiya loves the shadow, Gann loves the woman with hunger instead of a heart, Kaelyn admires the legend. They don't see whatever is left. They don't see the whole picture; they glimpse it through rose colored lenses and fail to push the broken pieces into a cohesive image.

Akachi knows her.

It's deeper than even Zaeve could ever achieve. He is inside her, feels the hunger when it strikes, the hunger for normalcy, for happiness, for peace, for a small village down in the south which she left as little more than ashes and a father who never loved her as real father should. He reads her mind and sees the hero she never wanted to be, the warrior she always was and the woman she aspired to become. He is where the piece of her sword once was, occupying that little space with the remains of his soul.

In their dreams – because they dream together, they are one, after all – he sits by her side and allows her head to rest against his chest. In their dreams, there is no hunger. There are two beings who loved and understood the Gods and betrayed willingly because they loved others. They are one and the same, two souls knit together, glued and meshed and fused and there's no separation, no part of her where he doesn't exist, no place where he can live outside of her.

If Nefris had known this, she would have never chosen the Knight-Captain. They were too alike. She gave her lover to another woman and expected her not to see the same things she had once loved.

The Captain stares at the Founder's wrinkled face as her sword is (finally) placed on her hands and finds little compassion in her heart. It is likely jealousy, the feeling which Akachi could have felt when facing the rest of her group – or Casavir, once in time, once upon a time in what seems another life now. If she digs harder, she finds hatred as she sees those fingers, the very same which dug into her chest and ripped part of her heart out as if she had every right to. If she digs even deeper, there is a seed of gratitude, wrapped up in love, so covered in distrust and disgust for this faithless soul which is barely visible.

"Not for you," the elf whispers with the inevitability of the last ring of a church bell. "I won't do this for you; I will spit on your grave if anyone is weak enough to give you one."

The sword shines complete between her rough fingers with the thirst of a murderer but doesn't attack. Oh no. Elka is a God-fearing individual. She is selfish. She is a woman. And she will have her revenge silently; slipping what this sorceress wants the most right underneath her feet before she is sent to rot away in an endless wall.

A little smile whispers through her gray skin before she crosses the portal into the Land of the Dead.

Everything from then on is automatic, the sort of hurricane her life has always been since her home was left behind. Elka runs through the streets mechanically, fighting anything and everything that crosses her path. The City holds secrets she doesn't care for. Keep them in your grasp, but he is hers and she is his and nothing else matters.

Kaelyn pulls away from her right then. Why can't she see the abhorrence that is the Wall? Traitor, the Celestial screams in her face, desperate hands on her shoulders which shake with her despair and the Captain's uncontained laughter.

Why? Because she is faithful, why else? Elka always was. She would rather run herself through than raise her sword against the God in His own kingdom. "It's not for you I fight either," and her voice doesn't rise even in the middle of conflict. "It's not for this Crusade or your Utopia. You would hold a blade and attack and kill rather than speak and pray to those above you."

She fights for herself and her half-damned soul which should have never been thrown into the Wall. She fights for herself and him. After all this time, she reasons, she has the right to be selfish.

"You either follow me or you don't but you will not stand in my way."

Kaelyn tries.

She dies, Elka makes sure of it, because Kaelyn is not the Crusader (Elka is not the Crusader) and whatever is left of the Celestial attacks her with dark eyes and dark wings. Might as well die than live in suffering.

"Let us go, little one. You cannot save everyone." The elf feels Okku's muzzle against her cold fingers. Steady as the world underneath her feet, steadier, the one person in the group who could care little for the hunger except for the fact that is consuming the one who spared him.

Elka loves Okku too. She truly does. He is not part of her or half of her but he exists in whatever is left of her heart as the father who didn't despise her. She drinks that love, grips that feeling with tight hands and runs once more.

Nefris doesn't matter. Kaelyn doesn't matter. The Wall awaits.

Her heart runs with her as she crosses what could have been her village. It's not, it's her mind, it's him drinking from her mind even though he no longer rests in her chest. And it hurts when she grips her bow more tightly, it shatters when she's forced to attack Myrkul's curse which keeps wearing a face she wishes to see smiling. She attacks and begs for forgiveness, cries when she sees the pain caused by her arrows, whispers pleas in between what little magic she holds and prays for recognition.

Can he see her, she wonders. Can he remember her, she hopes.

When the battle shifts to an end, Elka stops and reaches her shaking hands to find the mask inside her pack. Painstakingly gathered, carefully clued, safely preserved.

"Akachi?"

Please, remember me. The man – soul, whatever he is – doesn't reply and the fear inside the elf raises and Please, see me raises and she can't breathe even though she's a live soul inside the land of the dead. Please, know me. Please, Akachi.

His eyes rise to hers, green and bright and alive, and she knows him.

Please, know me.

Akachi smiles. It is a fond smile, even a little impish like a young boy up to no good. Sweet and infinitely captivating. Elka finds her own expression shifting to mirror his.

"You have restored his soul," says the mighty god behind her and the frail moment is shattered into nothing. "Done what gods thought beyond their power."

And yet, she breathes, she finally breathes easy, swallows deep gulps of air into her lungs. He is safe, he is well, he is whole and this is finally the end. Her knees meet the floor, her forehead lowers and the Knight-Captain bows, all her body and soul as she faces Kelemvor.

"Will you take me, God?"

If it was possible to be so human, the God would have frowned.

"You are alive."

"And none will serve you more loyally."

Knight-Captain, the Lady of Crossroad Keep and a knight of Neverwinter. Give her a task, give me any task, and the world will not stop her.

"The question you want to make is whether I will give him to you." That almost frown deepens until it's practically visible.

"No. He was Mirkul's and you took his place. He is yours. But I can be yours as well by his side. You know me, God. You know what we did and can do. You won't have anyone more faithful than us. Take me and him and allow us peace."

By the love of everything you hold sacred, let us rest.

Her father was not a father.

His brother was not a brother.

Her knight died.

His love perished.

Her thief ran.

His God betrayed.

Her sorceress fell.

And they are just so very tired.

Steady fingers wrap around her shoulder and help her off the floor, a steady breathing touching her ears from where he stands, half to her side, half behind her. There is a sense of loss as they will never be human, together, growing old in the sunlight but they have this and they have eternity. What else could they want?

The world stops, hanging on the God's choice, silent and waiting, begging as Kelemvor stares down at the two souls.

A small nod.

Akachi's hand tightens a little more and, if she tilts her head just so, she will see that little smile, that touch of happiness and the hole in her chest fills with something a little more tangible than hunger.

"I suppose I will have to wait to speak to your father?"

A little happier than hunger. A little sweeter.

"Feel free to speak with Okku."

Somewhere close, her God watches.

She breathes her last.

And finally rests.