By David Pontier
The Reality of Fear is the property of the author, David Pontier and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Email David with any comments and feedback on The Reality of Fear and visit his website at: http://www.geocities.com/piqsid/stories.html.
Chapter 1: The Switch
"So, what do you think?"
John Irenum and Artemis Entreri stood on the street looking at a new shop that had just opened. That John, the Captain of the City Guards, was associating himself with Entreri, the most lethal assassin to have ever set foot in Garrilport, would look odd unless you knew their history. It was a complicated history and will not be expounded upon here. Instead, the focus will be directed upon the shop.
A man named Kraygan owned the shop, and it was called Kraygan's Magic Store. Over a dozen people were walking in and out of the store every minute. It was a good first day. There were not many magic stores in Garrilport. In fact, this was the first. Magic was not something the people of this city knew anything about, hence the curiosity.
"I mean about the store," John clarified. "What do you think about the store?"
Entreri knew exactly what he had meant. He just did not want to answer the question. "Magic is for weaklings and fools."
"Do I need to remind you what happened with the last magician in this city?" John asked.
No he did not. Reillon was a mage who had worked for Quinton Palluge. In only a matter of days, and with very little effort, the two of them were able to gain complete control of the city. "I believe that magician is no longer with us," Entreri said plainly.
John looked at Entreri with a smirk on his face. Was this man bragging? No, there was no smile on Entreri's face. He had been the one to kill the mage. "I think you are not allowing your enemies enough credit. They could not stand up to you, perhaps, but that does not mean they were not formidable."
Entreri nodded slightly. "But that does not mean he was not weak and foolish." The assassin finally pulled his eyes off the store and looked at John. "The ability to use magic is not a skill you can teach. That ability comes from your intellect. And that is something you are born with. It does not matter how long a goblin goes to magic school, he will never be able to cast a fireball. Once you have the ability, you can learn to be more or less proficient with it, but that comes from reading, and studying."
"You prefer the physical talents to the mental ones?" John chided, perhaps indicating that Entreri's mind was not that sharp.
Entreri was too lost in his train of thought to recognize the insult if it was intended. "You are stronger than me," Entreri said. "Your weapon his much longer and your size dwarfs mine, yet you could not last ten seconds against me in battle."
Again John thought Entreri might be bragging, but the assassin was just stating a fact. "Any uninformed onlooker would bet on you to win every time. But I have trained myself to a level that they can not understand. I have not been blessed with great strength or size, so I made do with what I have. I have made myself who I am. Magic users try to make themselves powerful through shortcuts and spells they can not begin to understand. If rumors are to be believed, Reillon only discovered his magic a few weeks before he took over your city. He did not earn his power, he only stumbled upon it, and therefore did not understand it."
"So you say all those who use magic are weak and foolish?"
Entreri was far too clever to walk into that trap. Cicle, his frost blade was strapped to his side, and he looked down to it as he explained. "I spent years - no - decades perfecting my fighting skills, and have earned them. When I pick up a weapon like the one I wear, I understand its power, and am able to use it effectively."
Entreri gained a very vacant look as his mind strolled back in time. "In Calimport, my old home, there was a man by the name of Kohrin Soulez. He owned a powerful weapon called Charon's Claw. It would make my frost blade look like a toothpick. The weapon had a history with it. All of its owners had died horrible deaths. Soulez did not understand why, and so he kept himself locked inside his fortress on the edge of town. He did not understand the history. I did.
"Anyone who ever picked up that sword was suddenly a force to be reckoned with. They could kill anything that moved when before they might have been the most inept fighter in the realms. They suddenly had all this power, but they had done nothing to earn it and did not understand it. They walked into fights they had no business entering, yet usually ended up winning. But since they did not know what they were doing, it was only a matter of time before the faced off someone who would destroy them."
"So," John said, slowly absorbing what he could from the assassin's speech, "do you want to go inside?"
Entreri shrugged indifferently and motioned for John to lead the way. He tossed the captain a coin. "Here, buy yourself something nice."
The two men entered the shop and looked at the potential customers milling about. John and Entreri were separated quickly, and John wandered aimlessly through the shop. He looked at marble orbs, spiked wands, jars of creepy animal parts, and a whole assortment of herbs and spices.
John saw a strange looking box on one shelf and moved over to investigate. It was only a few inches along each side, and the silver pattern that was drawn over it was quite remarkable. John picked it up and found it to be much heavier than he had guessed.
"Please," said a voice behind him, "be careful with that. It is very powerful." John put the box down and turned around. This had to be Kaygan. The man before him was much younger than the captain had guessed he would be. He wore a long robe covered with moons and stars. His pointy hat made him over a foot taller than he was, and the starch in it was wearing out as it drooped to the side slightly. He looked quite comical.
"Kraygan?" John asked.
The shop owner nodded. The sorcerer could see the crest of the city guards on this man's chest plainly, and the way he held himself told of his importance. "And you are?"
"John Irenum," John replied.
"Captain Irenum?" The store clerk had done his research when he had entered this city. John nodded humbly. "Well, what can I do for you today Captain?"
John was about to say he was just looking, but an idea popped into his head. He craned his neck to look around the shop and spotted Entreri. The assassin was not examining the merchandise, but was instead examining the customers examining the merchandise. Each time someone picked up a magical item, Entreri braced himself, ready to dodge a lightening bolt or slay some vicious creature that might be summoned.
"Do you see that man over there?" John nodded, knowing Entreri's keen senses would probably pick him up if he pointed. Kraygan could just see him on the other side of his store and nodded. "His name is Artemis Entreri. He is not too impressed with magic."
"A disbeliever?" Kraygan said, his hands rubbing together eagerly. "Perhaps you would like a demonst--"
"No!" John said a little too quickly. "I mean, no, he is not a disbeliever, and neither am I." The last demonstration John had seen was when Reillon had struck dead two councilmen as casually as one might swat a fly. "He believes it exists, and even uses it himself, but he thinks it is mainly for weaklings and fools."
Kraygan smiled. "I am not a strong man," he said jovially, "but I am no fool, I assure you."
Jon nodded. "I'm not saying you are, and I'm not saying he said you were. He made a general statement, but I don't think he's seen everything there is to see. He is very self assured in his thinking, so I was wondering if you had anything that might scare him or catch him off guard."
Kraygan looked a bit put off. He was about to say something about how magic was not a toy for entertainment, but John saw the look and jumped in. "Nothing too dangerous," he said. "Maybe just a vision or image of something that he hasn't seen. I don't want you to bring forth some hellish beast from another dimension, but maybe if you could give him a dream or something. I don't really know that much about magic, I was just hoping you could knock him off his pedestal a bit."
"Well," Kraygan said slowly, "what kind of man is he?"
"Can't you tell for yourself?" the captain asked.
"A test?" the clerk smiled. "Very well." His left hand disappeared into a pocket in his flowing robe and his eyes locked onto Entreri before he close them. He stood for a few moments, swaying slightly before his eyes popped back open. He stumbled backwards slightly, as his knees became suddenly weak. John caught him before he crashed into anything.
"Um, uh, well, I, ah, you see, well, wow," was all the sorcerer could get out. "I don't think there is anything in this reality that would frighten him."
John looked disappointed. He was hoping Entreri was just full of himself. That might still be the case, but the assassin might also be right. "Isn't there anything?"
Kraygan was about to shake his head, but this was the captain of the city guards. If he were to help this man out, it might come back in his favor when he needed the guards' help. "Do you have anything of his on you?" the clerk asked.
John did not think so. He made a brief search of his person and fished out the coin Entreri had tossed him. Kraygan at first thought the captain was offering payment. If that were the case, it was way too small. John saw the look and shook his head. "No, this is his. He gave it to me right before we entered the shop. Is it good enough?"
Kraygan took the coin and concentrated as he did before. He nodded his head when he felt again the powerful presence of the assassin. "It will do. I can not promise you anything, but I will see what I can find. Is he a close friend of yours?"
John pondered the question a little too long before answering. "Let's say he is an acquaintance."
Kraygan nodded, not sure if he understood but realizing that was all he was going to get. He put the coin in a special pouch so it retained whatever magical identity it had on it. If he was going to summon a nightmare targeted at the coin's owner, he did not want his own aura to rub off on it. "Come back tomorrow and I might have something for you."
John thanked him and walked around the inside of the store until he came up behind Entreri. "Find anything you like?"
"This store is going to make your job a living hell," Entreri said bluntly, not turning to face John as he spoke.
"In what way?"
Entreri motioned with his arm to the entire store. "These people are treating complex magical items as if they were ornate paperweights or decorative mantle pieces. They have no idea what they are dealing with. Of course, the chances of them stumbling upon the proper incantations or ritual procedures, are slim, but there is that danger."
"You think I should run this Kraygan out of town?" John asked, half-joking, which meant he was also half-serious.
Entreri shook his head. "No. The best way to teach a child not to play with a knife is to let him kill himself a few times."
Entreri turned around to see John reeling at the odd phrase. "Assassin's Credo," Entreri clarified, "rule number six. Let's go, I need to prepare for tonight."
John followed his companion out of the store. "That's right. I have something tonight as well. I'm invited to dine with the mayor again. It seems Ellen can't get enough of my company. What plans do you have?"
Entreri stopped walking and turned to look the captain in the face. "I'm invited to dine with the mayor again. It seems Ellen can't get enough of my company either." Entreri's face was plain and unreadable. John's was plenty readable. "Don't worry, Captain. I have no desire to woo the mayor's daughter. She is all yours."
John tired to say something in return, but his voice was caught in his throat. By the time the color in his cheeks had gone down and his voice had returned, Entreri had already walked down the street and out of earshot. John just sighed in frustration and looked forward to returning to this magic shop in the morning.
* * *
"Aren't the stars beautiful," the young woman said.
Her companion said nothing. She continued to gaze up into the night sky almost as if hypnotized by the thousands of twinkling lights. It was normally cold this time of year, but there was only a cool breeze blowing and the sky was remarkably clear.
"I said, 'Aren't the stars beautiful?'"
He still did not respond. His eyes were not fixed above but were staring straight ahead. His gaze had long ago glossed over, and he did not really see anything in his field of vision. Closing his eyes would bring frightful images to his head. At least with them open, he could allow himself to see nothing.
"Drizzt Do'Urden," the woman scolded, "answer me when I talk to you."
Drizzt was shaken out his trance and he turned to see Catti-brie scowling at him. "I'm sorry," he confessed, his warm smile evaporating whatever temper might have suddenly flared in the young woman. "You were talking about the stars. Yes they are beautiful. My home did not have stars."
"You were thinking about your home?" Catti-brie asked, his despondency suddenly understood and forgiven. "I'm sorry to hear you still call it that."
Drizzt laughed to himself. When did this woman attain such wisdom? He was three times her age, but he did not consider himself half as wise. "It was my home," he said, more in a defense of his earlier statement then out of any conviction.
"Was it?" Catti-brie did not give up. "I've heard it said that home is where the heart is. Was your heart ever in Menzoberranzan? Did you ever truly belong there?"
Drizzt did not have a response and understood the questions to be more rhetorical and thought provoking anyway. Catti-brie continued. "This wind swept tundra might not seem like much of a home to anyone, least of all a dark elf, but I hope in time, you may feel comfortable calling it such."
Drizzt laughed and looked away, a tear rolling down his cheek. He coughed for an excuse to bring his hand up to his face, and his dexterous fingers wiped the salty drop away. Catti-brie was not fooled.
Yes, this northland was not much of a home for a dark elf, but Drizzt had been in this area for many years now. First in Icewind Dale and then in Mithril Hall. They had returned to the Dale when Errtu had led them north with Wulfgar's life in the balance. Now they were back near Mithril Hall as Bruenor was king again. They were not staying within the hall, preferring the outdoors to the stuffy caves. They lived in a small settlement just north of Settlestone. They were only a few hours from Bruenor and only a few from Wulfgar and Delly who lived in the barbarian town. Wherever they ended up, Drizzt did have to admit that it was closer to home than anything he had in Menzoberranzan.
Drizzt did not say anything for a while. Instead he gazed off into space, actually seeing what his eyes were pointed at this time. "Yes, the stars are beautiful."
Catti-brie was not going to let him off the hook that easily. "So why the sudden 'home' sickness? It has been years since we have even seen another dark elf other than Jarlaxle, and I hope you are not thinking of chasing him down."
Drizzt shook his head. "It has just been so quiet lately. With Wulfgar back and Bruenor in Mithril Hall again, it seems so peaceful - too peaceful. Always before there was something hanging over our heads. Whether it was that we were separated from a friend or preparing for war, there was always something we needed to do. Now it seems like we've done it all. It's like it's all over. This is the point in the story when the bard says, 'And everyone lived happily ever after.'"
"I have adventured with you for over half my life," Catti-brie said. "From the first day we met, when I was just a girl, to now I have enjoyed every minute. But I know that in fifteen years I will not be able to ride a horse without being too sore to walk the next morning. My bow will seem to get stiffer and stiffer as the years go by. I won't be able to run with Guen anymore. This is not a bad time in my life to start living happily ever after."
Catti-brie paused for a while, wanting Drizzt to look at her again before she continued. He did after the pause went on half a minute. "But for you I imagine it is different," she said knowingly. "By comparison, you are younger in your life than I was when we first met. You are not ready to kick up your boots by the fire and start telling the children of Settlestone your stories. You are not ready to live happily ever after."
Catti-brie was finished for now and would not speak again until Drizzt said something. The drow turned his eyes back to the stars for a few moments before answering. "It was like this before. We once lived in a time that seemed perfect and serene. We were all safe and happy. Then my family came looking for me. The next year brought us tremendous turmoil and strife. We lost friends and experienced things we will never forget.
"Now as I see us in relative peace and quiet, I can't help but think that something is right around the corner. Something is going to happen. And I can't help but think my people will have something to do with it."
"But your family is dead," Catti-brie responded. "Matron Baenre is dead. Surely their vendetta against you has brought them nothing but destruction and misfortune. They would not continue to come for you."
Drizzt just laughed at her. It was not meant to ridicule, but to revel in her glorious ignorance. She might be wise about most things, but there were other things it was good that she did not know. "You spent only a few days in my home, uh, in Menzoberranzan, and you saw things that I will never forgive myself for giving you the opportunity to see. But you do not understand my people. I hate Lloth, but I truly believe that she loves me. I am willing to bet that there is no other drow in the history of my people that has inspired more death, destruction, and chaos than I have. I do not boast when I say this, I am merely stating a fact. As long as I am alive, Lloth will dangle my life in front of her servants like a carrot before a donkey. And like a stupid ass, the drow will continue to come. Maybe not tomorrow and maybe not next century, but as long as I reject the drow lifestyle and embrace the good things of life," Drizzt's hand began to unconsciously fiddle with the unicorn necklace he wore, "my people will not forget me."
Catti-brie listened in silence. She had chased him into the underdark several years ago when he had tried to end his life and bring a close to the never ending hunt he had just described. At the time she had thought him stupid and untrusting, but she realized she might not understand these things well enough to form an educated opinion. Instead she changed the topic.
"Well, if you are looking for some excitement, I've heard reports that some of Berkthgar's people have found some unusual prints in the snow a few miles from here. They wanted to know if we could check it out."
Drizzt smiled. "Peace and quiet is a relative term when you live in the Spine of the World," Drizzt agreed.
"We can get an early start," she said. "I'll bring Wulfgar. You won't even have to fight, if you really want some peace. You track them and we'll kill them. It will be fun. Like old times."
Drizzt nodded. "If we are going to start early, we better turn in now." Catti-brie nodded. It was not that late, for darkness came early this far north, but both of them were tired.
Drizzt's room was not large. He used it only for sleep and to store a few changes of clothes. As a ranger he enjoyed to be outside anyway. Being cooped up reminded him too much of his home. No, reminded him of Menzoberranzan. Catti-brie was right, he would have to change his thinking. He smiled as he thought of the differences between his two homes. As a noble of a high-ranking house he was offered many luxuries. Even though he was a male, there were very few things he could not have or do. If there were drow right now, plotting some Lloth blessed scheme to hunt him down, they probably imagined him living in luxury in a well-guarded strong hold in the center of a huge city. They probably did not expect to find him in the barren wilderness living in a room that was barely big enough to hold a bed and an end table.
The night was a restless one. Even when he thought seriously about the potential for his people to continue to come for him, the idea that it might really happen was only vague at best. There was always that potential and it could eventually happen again, but Drizzt did not live in constant fear. While he slept, however, no notion or idea no matter how fantastic was ignored in his dreams. Each fantasy was played out in vivid detail, never ending well.
When morning came, Drizzt was more than ready for it. He would have to remind himself to cut back on the serious conversations before bed. They really ruined his sleep. Today would be different. Toady he would be out in his element with his friends, and they would be ridding the land of evil and potentially dangerous creatures. Today he promised himself he would not think about his people or what they might be doing. He was going to put that as far out of his mind as possible.
Drizzt got out of bed and dressed. It was something he did every morning, and living as he did in a cold and dangerous place like the dale, he had a lot to put on. The last item he always secured was Guenhwyvar. He did not like to include the panther in his normal routine because he did not want to ever start thinking of the magical figurine as just another piece of equipment like his swords or bracers.
As he picked up the pouch that normally held the figurine and reached for it as it stood on his nightstand, he felt a strange quiver work its way down his spine. He put the pouch down on the bed momentarily and sat up straight, trying to work out whatever crick he might have developed during his fitful sleep.
It did not go away. In fact, the quiver turned into a more intense tingling sensation. It worked its way up and down his spine, spreading slowly throughout out his body. It felt like a static tug, as if something intangible was pulling at him. What it was pulling him into or out of was not readily discernable, but Drizzt was beginning to become concerned.
The tingling began to numb his limbs, and Drizzt tried to stand, but his legs crumbled and he was suddenly kneeling on the floor. He could not move. His body seemed to be pulsing with energy and capable of enormous power, but he was confined within himself like paraplegic. Intense blue swirls of magical energy began to orbit around him ever faster, forming a shimmering, translucent sphere. The tugging was very insistent now.
It was also beginning to separate. The tingling sensation that had moved throughout his body was still there, trying to pull him to another location, but he also felt something else tugging at his mind and soul. Drizzt had been transported magically before, and understood the two feelings well. The first was a simple directional pull, trying to transport him to another physical location, and the second was transdimensional. He could feel his mind and soul being called to a different plane of existence.
As he struggled with this new revelation, he thought he could hear Catti-brie at his door calling out to him, but he could not move his mouth to answer. Her calls became knocks and then changed into pounding. Drizzt desperately wanted to respond. He wanted her to break the door down and rescue him from whatever force or magical power was calling him away, but he was helpless on the floor.
Suddenly a bright shock of energy went through the sphere and it shrunk to a pinprick and winked out of existence. The room was empty.
"Come on!" Catti-Brie called, pounding on the unyielding door. "Stupid lazy drow, open up!"
"I don't think he's there," Wulfgar responded, standing respectfully behind. "We would have surely woke him."
She turned to him. "Where would he go?" Wulfgar did not have an answer. Catti-brie knocked once more, but there was still no response. She motioned for Wulfgar to open it. The door was locked, but it was a cheap door. The mighty barbarian grabbed the knob and turned hard. The crack from inside the lock was as loud as Catti-brie's knocking had been. "He's gonna kill us," Catti-brie said, "but it's his own stupid fault."
The door swung open and they looked dumbfounded into the empty room. The only way to lock the door was from the inside, and the only window could not be opened. Catti-brie walked up to his bed, which had obviously been slept in, and picked up Guenhwyvar's pouch off the sheets. She saw the figurine still sitting on his nightstand. "Where would he go?"
* * *
Kraygan took off his robe and placed his hat on a hook in the back room of the store. He had just finished locking up and was exhausted. If business stayed up like this, he was going to have to hire a few assistants. Of course, they would need to know a bit about magic, and that might be hard to come by.
He could have made a lot more sales today than he did, but he had refused sale on a lot of items. People had made their selections based on appearance only, and cared nothing for the intrinsic value of the items. If they did not know what they were used for, he had often refused to sell it, instead offering a book that explained certain types of spells in which they might be interested.
Kraygan had found a very useful spell that was able to copy text from one page to another blank sheet. With a few modifications, he was able to print several dozen books, ensuring he would not run out. The books detailed simple spells for luck, love, and other such desires. Once the people of Garrilport knew what they were buying and how to use what he had to offer, he would be more willing to sell it to them.
Kraygan laughed to himself. Like he had said to John, he might be weak, but he was no fool. He had only stumbled upon his collection a year ago while he was lost in a cave within the Great Range, but he had worked hard to understand his magic and could tell that he had a natural inclination toward it.
It was dark outside already. The early spring days were getting longer, but he had stayed open a few extra hours today to accommodate the rush. He would not keep these hours all the time, but for the first few weeks he felt he needed to satisfy the public's curiosity. Right now he wanted a meal and a bed, but he remembered his promise to the captain to see what he could find.
He spent half an hour looking through his books until he found what he wanted. It was a simple spell and he had everything he needed in the shop. After collecting the items, he prepared a circle on the floor and lit a few candles in the room for light. In the middle of the circle he place a small mirror. It was only a foot across, and if the spell worked properly, the image of Entreri's worst fear would appear as the reflection.
Kraygan had never performed this spell before, and the complexity of it combined with his tired state made it difficult to concentrate. He placed the coin in a clear glass urn filled halfway with water and began to add the ingredients, chanting as he did. He needed four leaves from a cypress tree, two pinches of pulverized shale, three frog eyes, two--
Oops! He accidentally dropped a fourth frog eye into the mixture. He thought about fishing it out, but the contents were getting pretty hot and he decided against it. The instructions for the spell said he should not hesitate while adding the ingredients. He quickly added two ounces of animal fat and five ounces of oil. It might have been three ounces and six ounces, but he let it go.
He also was not too confident about the incantation he was muttering. It was in a language he did not know, and he was not so sure his pronunciation was correct. As he continued to add the last two items to the mixture, he hoped all these inconstancies did not matter.
Kraygan was gravely mistaken about two things. The first was that all of the inconsistencies did mater. They mattered a great deal. And the second thing was that he was a fool.
The sorcerer said the last few syllables of his incantation and turned to look at the mirror within the circle. Swirls of blue energy were wafting about over the glass, and Kraygan smiled, happy it was working. He dipped a feather into his now boiling concoction and sprinkled the potion over the mirror liberally. The swirling magical energy filled the entire circle now, and Kraygan wondered if he had made it big enough. The spell seemed a lot more powerful that it should be. He remembered how he might have gone heavy on some of the ingredients. The spell was sure to work now.
As he pinched some gold powder from a pouch, the final and most important component to the spell, he wondered if he should not adjust this amount as well. The book called for just a pinch, but knowing how powerful the spell was already and knowing how powerful this image would be if it were to scare Entreri, he grabbed a little extra gold powder and tossed it into the circle. He could always sweep the extra powder up later.
The shock of energy was tremendous, and Kraygan backed up quickly. The sphere of energy seemed to push the circumference of the magical circle out, allowing what ever presence he had summoned more room. The sound of glass cracking filled the room, and Kraygan cringed. If the mirror was broken, how was he supposed to see the image?
The spell ended suddenly, and the blue sphere winked out of existence. The reason for the cracked mirror was obvious. Instead of just summoning an image, Kraygan had summoned an actual creature - a human, at least it looked human. It was sitting on his mirror.
The creature was hunkered into a tight crouched position and slowly came to its senses. It had long white hair and dark skin. It was dressed for cold weather and quite ornately dressed at that. As the creature slowly looked around, Kraygan recognized it as an elf. Kraygan did not know what a drow was. Even if he did, he would be too proud of himself right now to be frightened.
Drizzt woke up slowly, very confused. His legs were cramped and stiff and he slowly stretched them out. What had happened? Where was he? Where had he just been? The last few minutes seemed very blurry to him, as if he were waking from a very realistic dream. Waking up? That was it. He had been sleeping. He remembered now. He had been in bed, and now he was here. There was something else. Dianka! Where was Dianka?
Drizzt lifted his head and cringed. The light! The room was flooded with light, and it startled him. He quickly shifted his perception out of the infrared, but the glare was still more than he was used to. He was in a room. He could tell that. He was also sitting on a pile of glass. There was a sound too. His ears were just recovering from the magical hum of whatever had brought him here, but he was pretty sure he could hear something.
It was a voice. It was a male's voice. Drizzt looked up and saw a man standing over him saying something he did not understand. A man? A human? Where was he?
"Who are you?" Kraygan asked again. The drow did not respond, but gave him a very quizzical expression as he stood up, stretching out his limbs. The drow seemed to ignore the sorcerer as he looked around the room, squinting each time he saw a candle.
An idea crossed Kraygan's mind and he pulled a small blue orb from a nearby shelf. He spoke an activation word and asked his question again. "Who are you?"
Drizzt understood the words clearly this time, as they were finally spoken in his language. Maybe this human was something he should worry about. He was obviously powerful if he could summon him from his heavily protected room - but he had not been in his room, had he? He kept looking around. Where was Dianka?
"Who are you!" Kraygan shouted. A minor electrical charge jumped from his fingers when he asked this time, shocking the drow.
Drizzt jumped away from the sorcerer, his hands instantly dropping to his weapon hilts. He recognized this human was just trying to get his attention, and it had not been an attack, but the electrical charge should have never even touched him. He looked down at his attire and was even more confused. These were not his clothes. One thing at a time. He looked up at the human. "Who are you?"
Kraygan bowed deeply. "I am Kraygan. I brought yo-"
"Send me back," Drizzt said sharply.
"In good time," Kraygan said, a bit of a quiver in his voice. If he knew anything about summonings, he thought he should have some control over this creature. But this elf seemed to be in total control of himself. "Can you please tell me your name?"
Drizzt sighed. "I am Drizzt Do'Urden of Daermon N'a'shezbaernon, House Do'Urden, Sixth House of Menzoberranzan." It was a title he had said more than once. "Now send me back."
"Do you know Artemis Entreri?" Kraygan asked.
"No." Drizzt was growing very tired of these games. "Send me back. I will not ask again."
"Are you sure you do not know him?" Kraygan asked more to himself than to Drizzt. "You have to know him," he said as he turned to look at his book. "He knows you or I would not have been able to find you." His fingers followed out the description of the spell he had just cast. "I don't see how this is poss-" he was violently interrupted when a scimitar came slicing through the air at his book. The blade cut the book in half right at its binding, taking three of Kraygan's fingers in the process.
The sorcerer cried out in pain and terror as he backed quickly against the wall. Drizzt was walking slowly toward him, a weapon out and dripping with Kraygan's blood. "Can you send me back?"
"I . . . uh . . . I don't . . . you are not supposed to . . . just an image . . . I . . . I . . . don't know."
"You don't know if you can send me back?" Drizzt said calmly, though his voice had an edge to it that was sharper than the blade he held.
Kraygan shook his head. "I mean I might."
"How did I get here?"
Kraygan paused, wishing desperately that he had the answer for this angry drow. His pause alone told Drizzt that the sorcerer had no clue why he was there. "You don't know why I am here, and you don't know how to send me back?" Drizzt asked for clarification.
"I can try," Kraygan said, trying to point toward his books on the other side of the room. He tried to point, but that finger was missing. Blood poured from the wound, but he was too scared to feel the pain.
Drizzt laughed. He was not about to let this inept sorcerer try to send him anywhere. He was not stupid. "Who is this Artemis Entreri?"
"He . . . I . . . uh . . . I summoned you for him," Kraygan said, not exactly sure how to present the information. "You are supposed to be his worst nightmare."
Drizzt laughed deeply. "Well, now, finally you are making some sense. Where can I find this . . . man?" Drizzt guessed at the race.
"He lives in the city. I don't know where."
Drizzt nodded and began to turn away.
"I'm terribly sorry about this," Kraygan tried to apologize. "It was all just a big mistake."
"Yes," Drizzt agreed as he spun around suddenly, his left-hand scimitar slicing cleanly across Kraygan's neck, scraping against his spine, but not severing the head completely. "It has been a big mistake." His right hand weapon suddenly appeared as well and stabbed straight into the dying man's chest. Drizzt heaved him into the air, letting the thin body slide painfully down his second weapon until his chest bumped against the hilt. The life was fast leaving Kraygan's eyes, and the last image he saw was Drizzt's grinning visage an inch away from his own face. "I just want to make sure you never make this mistake again."
Drizzt pushed the man away before the sorcerer got blood on him, and wiped his blades on a nearby towel. As he had noticed before, these were not his weapons. They were both finely crafted scimitars, but they were not twins. One of them was glowing angrily at him, its bluish light almost out shining the half dozen candles in the room. He sheathed both weapons and looked at the rest of his attire.
Kraygan had seemed surprisingly heavy when Drizzt had lifted him into the air, and looking at his wrists, he saw that his bracers were missing. Not missing, he soon realized, but on his ankles instead. Plus his clothing was all wrong. He was very hot inside the heavy cloak and tunic he wore. And there was something scratching on his chest. He reached into his collar and pulled out a unicorn figurine.
"What in the nine hells is this?" He felt no magical energy coming from it and snapped it off his neck. He regarded it for a few seconds and then threw it into a corner, shattering some glass container he did not care to investigate. He was about to leave this small back room, when a glowing orb caught his attention. It was the orb Kraygan had produced to allow the two of them to communicate. Drizzt picked it up, fell into its enchantment to discern its activation words, and pocketed the useful item.
He moved quickly through the main part of the store seeing right away that this foolish man had not taken the time to secure his store with any type of magical protection. We walked through the front door of the shop and cursed a dozen curses. The surface! He was on the surface.
It was night now, but there was a faint glow to the west. Drizzt did not know if this meant the sun had just gone down, or if it was just about to come up. Either way, he needed to find some type of shelter. He felt almost naked without his usual equipment. He did not want to underestimate these humans. If Kraygan was an example of their power, he had nothing to worry about, but he already knew the man was working for someone else, so he felt it safe to assume he was below average.
Drizzt needed to find shelter, and he needed to find this Artemis fellow. Artemis better have the power to send him back, or Drizzt was going to be in a very foul mood. He tucked his hair and head into the hood on his cloak, suddenly glad for the extra clothes. There was a bit of a chill in the air. Looking about briefly, Drizzt Do'Urden moved into the heart of the city as silent as death.
* * *
Drizzt woke up with a start. His breathing was quick for a moment, but then it relaxed as he realized where he was. He was still in bed. It had all been a dream. It had been a very realistic dream though. He thought he could still feel the magical hum of energy from when the blue swirls had spun around him. But it had been a dream. He could not feel any stiffness in his limbs from the paralysis he had experienced. The small disorientation he felt could easily be attributed to the dream. He was safe in his be-
There was something on his leg. It was moving. Drizzt lay perfectly still. His door was locked, but he knew his room was not impenetrable. With all the giants and ogres and yetis in the dale, one often overlooked the smaller creatures. But some of them were just as deadly.
The creature moved slowly up his thigh. It did not feel furry or scaly. In fact, it felt soft. As it moved further up his leg, Drizzt did not think the touch was menacing at all. It felt more like a friendly caress. Drizzt winced suddenly - very friendly.
"One more time before you go?"
Drizzt was wide-awake now. The voice came from just behind him as he lay on his side. It was soft, sultry, female, and most disturbing, drow. Drizzt leaped suddenly out of his bed, pulling a sheet with him to cover his naked body. When had he gotten frictionless satin sheets?
It had indeed been a female drow in bed next to him, and she looked quite startled by Drizzt's retreat. She sat up casually in bed, showing none of the modesty Drizzt was exhibiting. "Is something wrong?"
Is anything right? Drizzt asked himself. This was not his bed; this was not his room. Where was he? What was he doing? What was he doing with her? That last question was a bit obvious, but Drizzt had no memory of any of this. And looking at the beautiful drow who was reclined before him, he knew if something had happened, he would remember. He was sure of it.
The female drow moved to his side of the bed and swung her legs over the edge. Her eyes stared into him like icicles. She stood, revealing what little of her body had still been covered by the sheets. Drizzt's whole body quivered.
"You don't want to use the bed," she said, her voice dripping with sexual seduction. "I can adapt." She closed on him quickly, pressing her body against his and covering his neck and shoulders with kisses.
Drizzt fought desperately against his own desires. Half of him wanted her to continue, but the other half needed to push her way. Instead his hands stayed clamped to the sheet that covered his body, hardly a necessity with her curves pressed so tightly up against him that Wulfgar could not pull the sheet free if he tried.
Her kisses traveled slowly down his bare chest, sending chills up his spine. As she got to the edge of the sheet, half way down his chest, she backed away and playfully tugged at the hem. "Drizzt, I don't know if I can do it with this in the way," she said.
That was enough. As the female pulled down on the sheet, Drizzt released it and pushed her away. She seemed surprisingly light, and Drizzt was able to throw her several feet back onto the bed. "Oooohhhh," she cried. "You want to play rough. I ca-"
"No!" Drizzt cried, not even bothering to pick the sheet back up. "Get out!"
She just laughed at him. "What are you play at?"
Drizzt took a step toward her, all his frustration at this new situation boiling over into rage. The female saw that change, and her demeanor changed as well. She suddenly looked like a frightened puppy. "Master, what's wrong? Is it me? Was I not good? Did I do something wrong?"
"Get out," Drizzt repeated, speaking with a calm fury that even scared himself.
"But this is my room," she replied, but she was already moving. She picked up a discarded robe from the other side of the bed, and wrapped herself in it. She looked back at him. "Maybe tonight, I can bring a friend. Thelani or Quis'kiny, or I can bring both. We can use your room. We can do things you never-"
"Out!" Drizzt cried for the last time.
The woman moved like an arrow for the door in the corner of the room. She opened it and prepared to leave, but turned one last time. "Please don't tell Matron Malice about this."
The shock of this last phrase must have been clearly evident on Drizzt's face because the female disappeared long before he could even begin a response.
As the door closed, he collapsed into a sitting position on the bed. Matron Malice! Where was he? Who was he? The female had called him Drizzt, but this was not him. This was not his life. He looked down at himself. This was not his body. Drizzt was fit, but this body more closely resembled Wulfgar's. The raw power in his muscles was incredible. He had tossed that female onto the bed as if she had weighed nothing.
Drizzt was lost in thought, but as he sat there, something caught his attention. There was a scar on his knee. He knew that scar. He had gotten that scar when he was a child first learning to levitate. Vierna had made him levitate when he was too young to realistically do it. He had fallen many times, the last fall before he succeeded had opened a gash on his knee, but Vierna had refused to heal it with her priestly powers, letting the pain remind him of his failure.
Drizzt looked at his chest. There he should find his most recent scar. When Entreri had "killed" him in Jarlaxle's crystal tower, Rai-guy had healed him, mostly. Drizzt knew that drow priests were very powerful, and Rai-guy had been able to heal Regis completely a day or so earlier. He figured the drow priest had left the scar there on purpose. Whatever the case, he did not have the scar now. His chest was clean.
There were no mirrors in the room, but Drizzt spotted a small water basin in the corner where this female kept the rest of her toiletries. He lit a candle and walked over to the basin. The reflection was one he knew. It was him. His face was a little fuller, and there appeared to be holes in his ears for earrings, but it was him.
Drizzt saw the earrings on the small table next to the basin. There were two diamonds studs and four gold hoops. He shrugged his shoulders and started to put them in. He could feel the magical energy in them and smiled to himself. But why had he taken them off? He looked closely at his reflection and saw tiny bit marks on his ears. He shuddered as he realized his sleeping partner had probably found them to be in the way.
Drizzt searched through the female's personal belongings next. Her name was Dianka, and she was a member of House Do'Urden - as if Matron Malice's name had not been enough to confirm where he was. But how? His old house had been destroyed and Matron Malice was dead. She had brought the house to ruin trying to capture him. Instead he had escaped and fled to the surface.
But he was not on the surface now. He could feel the weight of the world on top of him as clearly as if it had always been there, as if he had never left. That thought scared him. He did not have the scar on his chest. That meant he had not fought Entreri in the crystal tower. Had it all been a dream? Had he dreamt all those things? If he had not run away, Malice would still probably be alive. It had only been about thirty years ago. It was like he had never left.
Drizzt needed answers. But first he needed clothes. His undershorts were lying next to the bed. At least he assumed they were his. It took a little extra hunting to find his pants, and then even more to find his tunic. Why were his clothes spread across the room? Drizzt blushed deeply as he realized the answer to his question. He also felt a little stiff as he moved about. He was not used to the extra bulk this body had, and he understood how it would take away from his flexibility.
He came upon his piwafwi and a wave of memories washed over him. The last he had seen of this was when he had discarded it in the mountains near Maldobar. It had been torn and tattered then, destroyed by the light of the sun. Now it looked as new as when he had first been given it. There were a few extra gems sewn into the fabric, but it was the same piwafwi. As he put it on, he could feel the stiffness he had felt earlier evaporate. Despite his size, he felt as spry as ever.
His weapons and equipment were the only things that lay in a neat pile. Drizzt had always taken good care of his weapons, and was glad to see that in this reality, he did so as well. As he strapped them on, he understood why. The scimitars were his old scimitars. They had a few more gems in the pommel, and he though he saw a few extra inscriptions on the blades, but they were his.
Drizzt was surprised to find his bracers in the pile. These had been Dantrag's and should still be his. He began to put them on his wrists and paused. He did not wear them on his wrists, he wore them on his ankles. Something inside him, some muscle memory, had instinctively started to put them on his wrists. Drizzt decided not to fight the instinct, realizing this body had probably gone through the motions of putting on this equipment thousands of times and knew what it was doing.
He had worn his bracers on his ankles because he found that his feet could not keep up with his hands while fighting. When he put on his boots, Drizzt understood why that was no longer a problem. It felt like he weighed no more than a child.
The last item in the pile surprised him. It was Khazid'hea, or Cutter as the sentient weapon called itself. Catti-brie owned it in his other life. Dantrag was supposed to own it in this one. The idea that he had already killed Dantrag in this life was not something Drizzt had difficulty believing. But why would he wear this sword? He could not wield three weapons, and it matched poorly with either of his scimitars. Still, Drizzt's instinctive movements found a clasp on his belt that secured the weapon behind his right scimitar and out of the way.
Finished with the process of getting dressed, Drizzt took stock of himself. It was awe-inspiring. He felt as stronger than Wulfgar, quicker than Entreri, faster than Guenhwyvar, more resilient than Bruenor, and his precision . . . He took his weapons out and swung them through a series of maneuvers. He shuddered. "I am a killing machine."
Drizzt left the room, making a conscious effort not to run. His body felt so light and alive with energy, pulsing with more magic than he had thought possible, that he felt he could fly if he wanted to. On a hunch, Drizzt checked his levitating ability. It was something he had not tried in over a dozen years, but it came back to him like it had never left.
The halls of the Do'Urden compound were empty. He did not recognize this area of the house, which was odd. He had lived in Menzoberranzan for almost half his life, he should remember his own house. Then it struck him. He was not in the main section of the house. Dianka was not a noble. They had probably used her room so as not to draw attention to his secret liaisons. He had never been in the common section of the house.
The halls were all empty this early in the morning, and Drizzt moved through them quietly, not wanting to wake anyone. He moved as if he were a thief, not able to bring himself to understand that he belonged here, or at least that this version of him belonged here. If anyone saw him they would not sound an alarm. In fact, since he was a noble, they would probably bend low in honor at his passing.
Drizzt shuddered again as he stepped out of the common dormitory and onto the floor of the Do'Urden compound. He could see the great ceiling of Menzoberranzan stretching out above and beyond him. He was truly back home.
As he walked toward the main stalagmite structure of the compound, Drizzt tried to remember where his room was. All he could remember was that he had not spent much time in it. It was given to him after he had returned from the Academy, and he had only stayed for a few weeks after that. Most of his time had been spent as a page prince in the chapel or in the gymnasium training with . . .
Zaknafein! Drizzt did run now. If he had not run away, then Malice would have had no reason to sacrifice his father. Zaknafein would still be alive. The way to the gym was very familiar to him, and Drizzt covered the distance in seconds. He paused briefly outside the door. Inside the gym he could hear the sounds of sparring. Zak was training someone.
Whatever delusional nightmare Drizzt was experiencing, it could all be worth it if he had just one minute with his father. He burst through the doors and stopped. It was not Zaknafein. Two young drow were sparring or fighting with each other. They were using real weapons, so it was unclear. Whatever they were doing, they stopped the instant Drizzt entered the room.
They bowed low. "Are we to start early this morning, Master," one of them said. The one that spoke looked familiar somehow. Drizzt wondered if he had seen him in his other life before he had run away. He did not look old enough for that. Drizzt shook it off. The other student looked at Drizzt with a clear level of hatred in his eyes. He did not say anything.
Drizzt continued to talk to the first drow, who looked a few years older. "Start?" as soon as the question was out of his mouth, he wished he had not asked it. Of course he did not know what was going on, but the more he acted like it, the less likely he was going to figure anything out.
"Today's session," the first drow replied.
"I know," Drizzt scolded back, "but it looks like you and your friend have already started without me."
The student trembled a bit. "Kelron and I were just practicing what you showed us yesterday. Since you were not in your room we thought you might be, uh, um, busy elsewhere."
Drizzt knew what the young student was thinking, but could not bring himself to say. Thinking back to Dianka, Drizzt knew the student was right. That was not what bothered him though. This young drow was talking as if Drizzt was their weapon master. Both he and Dianka had called him master.
"Where is Zaknafein?" Drizzt asked, knowing he should already know the answer, but not caring how foolish it made him look.
"Zaknafein?" the young drow looked confused.
Didn't Zaknafein exist in this reality? He had to, or at least some version of him. "Yes," Drizzt said, "Zaknafein. Do you know who he is?"
"He was the weapon master of this house before you," the drow responded. "It was before I was born, but I know of it."
So Malice had made Drizzt weapon master instead. It made sense to have a noble son as the weapon master. "Do you know where he is?" Drizzt asked.
The student again had a puzzled look on his face.
"Answer the question!"
"He's dead," the young drow replied meekly.
Drizzt exploded into motion, moving almost faster than he could think. In a second he had the drow pinned against the wall with a scimitar at his neck. "Who killed Zaknafein?" Drizzt asked as slowly and as seriously as he could muster.
The young drow was terrified. Drizzt could see many bruises covering his face and they all throbbed red as he quivered in fear. "Is this a test?" he asked.
Drizzt said nothing, but grunted loudly as he pressed his blade against the drow's neck, drawing a think line of blood.
"You did," the drow squeaked, almost inaudible.
The shock was almost too much. His grip on his scimitar slackened. His posture was no longer erect. His mind was reeling with the idea that he had killed his own father. He did not care how perverted this other self of him was, he could never, under any circumstances, kill his own father.
At this moment, Drizzt the ranger would have died. Living in Icewind Dale had kept him on edge, and he was more alert in that environment than anyone else. He could track anything and would never walk into an ambush. But Drizzt the ranger, in this current emotional state, after hearing he had killed his own father, would not have heard Kelron sneaking up behind him.
To Drizzt the weapon master, it sounded like the other drow was walking on broken glass. It might have been the magical diamond earrings that improved his hearing. It might have been the magical boots that allowed him to feel the slight tremor in the floor. Or it might just be the warrior instincts that had developed over 60 years in the underdark. Whatever it was, Kelron did not have a chance.
With his left scimitar still held loosely at the familiar drow's neck, Drizzt pulled his other one and swept it behind him without turning. The blind scimitar impossibly blew Kelron's attempted backstab out of the way, and then swept back and down toward the drow's knees. The move was made too quickly for Kelron to retreat with his momentum already going forward. He desperately tried to get his weapon back in time to block the attack, but saw he would not have time.
Kelron braced himself to lose a leg, but the scimitar did not continue the attack, instead it came back up to meet the returning sword. Kelron was startled back to reality from the unexpected block, but then had to drop his weapon as Drizzt cut at his hand. Kelron was off balance and threw both arms wide to keep them out of range.
Instead, the scimitar jabbed straight back, the enchanted tip piercing the thin chainmail and snagging Kelron where he stood. With a tremendous heave, Drizzt pulled the rebellious student around his right side dragging him by his own armor. Kelron's back slammed into the wall, and Drizzt kept his weapon at the drow's chest, the tip still through the chainmail and drawing a prick of blood from his chest. Kelron did not even dare breath.
Drizzt carried out the attack almost nonchalantly, not even sure how he was doing it. He just let his body act instinctively, knowing that he should not be able to do what he was doing. Instead of worrying about it, he kept his main focus on the young student in front of him. "I killed my father?" he asked, not wanting to hear the answer, but needing to at the same time.
The drow nodded. "Like I said, it happened before I was born."
Drizzt was not in good shape right now. The one chance for this nightmarish existence back in Menzoberranzan to be bearable had just been shattered on the floor. He had killed Zaknafein and taken his place as weapon master. Looking at both his students' faces, he could see clearly enough that he was not a kind master. They each had cuts and bruises that numbered far more than what he had experienced under Vierna. He was so cruel that given the chance, Kelron had just tried to kill him
"Is something wrong, Father?"
Drizzt's jaw dropped. The reason the drow had seemed so familiar was because he was Drizzt's own son.
"I mean Master," the drow quickly corrected himself, seeing his father's shocked expression.
This was too much. Drizzt needed to sort it out, and he needed to do it alone. "I killed my own father," he said, working hard to keep his voice from cracking. "I have no problem killing my own son. If you two ever start a session before I arrive again, I will kill you both. Is that understood?"
The two drow nodded, terribly frightful that they would be killed anyway. "Now go back to your rooms. There will be no further lessons today." They did not need to be told twice and scampered off to their small quarters on the other side of the gym.
Drizzt moved as if in a daze to what must be his own chamber, the weapon master's chamber. Drizzt walked in, fell on his bed, and wept.
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