It wasn't supposed to go like this yet, somehow, here we are. Artorius, my Tempest Domain cleric fresh out of performing heroic deeds that involved, among other things, saving a dump truck-load of people, vanquishing a bunch of sociopathic villains, and generally drawing on his deity-bestowed godly power to be the saviour of the hour, is not finding companionship and a moment of solace from the challenges ahead with his fellow cleric and—in my role-playing plan for Artorius—obvious romantic interest, Shadowheart. He is in fact now necking with Lae'zel, who Baldur's Gate 3 has dubbed his "hot githyanki girlfriend".
Yep, this was definitely not the narrative I envisioned for Artorius when I rolled this character and started my first full play-through of Baldur's Gate 3. My original thinking was thus: Artorius, a veteran, world-weary half-elf Tempest Domain cleric who, against his will, is dragged into the narrative events of Baldur's Gate 3 during a crisis of his own faith, bonds with the other religious zealot in his party, Shadowheart, despite her being in service of another deity, Shar. This, I imagined, would eventually lead to complications in a relationship, no doubt exacerbated by Shadowheart's own personal agency and mission in the game, but that would be interesting in terms of story.
Now though, despite even initially rejecting the, how can we say it, very forward Lae'zel in terms of knocking boots, and pursuing Shadowheart romantically, Artorius finds himself making out with the pale yellow, leathery-skinned, black-eyed Lae'zel, who has professed her obsession with him and he with her. How did it come to this?
I'll tell you how. Because, god damn, Lae'zel is something else. I'm obsessed with her drive and intensity, which is zealot-level in terms of purity, as well as her desire to ascend, to attain her glorious purpose or die trying. How could Artorious, himself a former religious zealot, not see in Lae'zel something that he had since lost and that, deep down, attracts him—that clarity of thought.
Lae'zel also taps into something I think that, for humans, is quite primal in her desire for combat and blood, as well as her strong tribe-first mindset. That tribal nature, both protective and positive, as well as damaging to the alien other and negative, is buried deep in the blood and bones of humanity, as for millennia that's the mindset through which humans evolved. Also, the fact that she is a stone-cold killer on the battlefield, has left me (and Artorius, in the in-game narrative) in awe of her abilities. Impressive as a word doesn't cut it.
Without spoiling too much in terms of in-game events, too, Lae'zel's journey so far in my play through, which Artorius has very much been part of, has left her damaged and, god damn, that just makes her even more interesting. After seeing what Lae'zel goes through, wouldn't Artorius be moved by it? I think so, there'd be emotional fallout as well as resonating questions about the loss of faith that would directly chime with him, so their union made sense to me. I think there was a mutual need, here, catalysed by events in the game.
There's no doubt that Shadowheart herself radiates a mystique that few of the other companions (that I've met so far!) possess, and that definitely appealed to me in terms of potential narrative for Artorius' journey (as well as her being objectively gorgeous at the same time!). But the polar opposite in many ways, Lae'zel, just totally ambushed Artorius and me, and while I have no idea where this romance will go, right now it feels exhilarating. I am invested in Artorius, my party, and this relationship. Lae'zel has a glorious purpose and Artorius will see her fulfill it, while hopefully along the way he will rekindle a little of what he has lost in the process.
All of which brings me round to, once more, doffing my cap to Larian Studios, who has once again demonstrated why Baldur's Gate 3 is the fantasy RPG of the decade. When a game can surprise you like this despite even your own very carefully made plans, you know you've got something special. The game feels alive, like a shifting mandala of potentials and reactions, and this partnered with writing so good that even narrative layers as well as emotional complexity and resonance can be drawn forth from characters like Lae'zel, you've just got to applaud. Chapeux Larian, chapeux.