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 3: Confrontations
Matron Triel Baenre looked at her brother with contempt.
Triel had been the matron mother of house Baenre for a little over three decades, and her rule was not a prosperous one. When she had been elevated to the top of her house, all of her siblings ceased being nobles. If Triel had truly cared about the strength of her house, she would have allowed her sisters to keep their title and continue in their responsibilities within the house. Instead, her pride had insisted that her own daughters take their places. She only had three daughters, and two sons, but she was determined to prove that they were just as powerful as the nobles they replaced. They were not.
Once a high priestess, always a high priestess, so Triel's many sisters still retained their individual powers, but those powers were no longer directed toward maintaining the house's status and strength. Instead, all the sisters did was plot on how to remove their oldest sibling from power.
Triel understood the ways of Lloth and how to handle her sisters and daughters, but she did not understand males at all. She wished for one of her two sons, who had each done well in the Academy, to be weapon master, but she knew that Berg'inyon was better. Still, he was only the second best weapon master in the city. Either of her sons could do that. If Berg'inyon was not first, he might as well be fiftieth for all Triel cared.
"Rise," she said.
Berg'inyon did as he was told, respectfully looking away from his sister's face. He knew his position was in jeopardy. The rest of his sisters had been demoted, and he had expected the same, but the position of weapon master, which he had usurped after Dantrag's demise, was still his.
"Do you know why I have called you here?" she asked.
"No, Matron," he replied.
"I am not happy with your performance," she said bluntly. "I wish for more."
"My students dominate the Academy as much as Dantrag's did," Berg'inyon replied. It was not exactly true. Do'Urdens dominated the Academy now, but he doubted his sister kept track of such things.
"And I was not happy with our late brother's performance either," Triel said. "I am the most powerful matron in the city," she boasted. Berg'inyon could think of three matrons he considered more powerful. He even thought a few of his sisters were her superior. "Gromph is still the most powerful mage in the city," she continued. Berg'inyon agreed with that. "But you are not the most powerful weapon master in the city, are you?"
"No, I am not." Ever since his second year in the Academy, he had been honest with himself. He would not let foolish pride consume him like it had Dantrag.
"Do you think that is acceptable in Lloth's eyes?" Triel asked, venom in her voice. "She demands the best from the first house. Your performance has fallen short."
"A male's life is not meant to please Lloth," he said, having put a lot of thought into what he might say when this conversation took place. "A male serves his house so that it might bring glory to Lloth. While I might not be the best weapon master in the city, I have kept our fighting forces able enough to repel all who attack and our position as first in the city is secure."
"Is it?" Triel asked. Despite all the evidence, she really did think it was. Berg'inyon really did not. He remained silent. "I want you to kill House Do'Urden's weapon master," she said.
"No," Berg'inyon replied. He did not care what happened to him.
"No?! How dare you disobey me!" Her whip was out in a flash.
Berg'inyon lifted his face to look directly at her. "No, I can not kill him. To try would be foolish. If you wish to demote me, then do so. Do not kill this house's strongest warrior and make us weaker at a time we need to maintain our strength."
Triel was fuming. Her whip was animated with her anger, its multiple heads snapping in Berg'inyon's direction with eager anticipation, but she held them in check. Too much of what Berg'inyon had said was true. "Out!" she scolded vehemently. "I want you out of my house. I do not ever want to see your face in this house again unless you return bearing the head of Drizzt Do'Urden."
Berg'inyon bowed his head and left. He had figured the result of his summons to his sister's chamber would be a death sentence in one way or another. Being cast out onto the streets of Menzoberranzan without the protection of a house was as lenient of a death sentence as he could have hoped for. As he walked through the front gate to the Baenre compound, he did not look back.
* * *
Entreri sat in his humble abode waiting. He knew that John's men would have very little trouble finding Drizzt if he still remained in the city. And if Drizzt had turned into a killer when he had been resurrected, then Entreri would hear about it one way or another. In the few hours he had before all hell broke loose, Entreri tried to work through this issue.
He did not like magic. He thought the magical energies on this world were too powerful for humans to understand. Their short lives and ambitious goals made them cut so many corners that Entreri was surprised things like this situation did not happen more often. Still, he knew that magic did have its uses, and while most inept mages did not get what they want, the magic always did what it was supposed to. This meant that while Kraygan had not gotten what he was expecting, if the spell was designed to bring forth Entreri's worst fear, then Drizzt was it.
What did this mean? It made no sense if this resurrected Drizzt was of the same mentality of the one he had killed. He had respected Drizzt, but he had not feared him. Entreri had been forced to admit many things to himself about the errors he had made in his life, but as deep as he searched and as truthful as he was with himself, he could not find any fear of Drizzt Do'Urden.
Entreri could only remember one time when he had been afraid. He had stayed with Jarlaxle in Menzoberranzan for several months after the drow mercenary had saved his life. During that time he had seen what a city full of assassins would be like. It was not that they were all more skilled than he was. He had fought several drow, including a matron mother, and they had all fallen to his blades. Neither were they as clever or resourceful. They were, however, just as ruthless, if not more so. Each drow had ambitions for greatness and the only way open to them was to kill everything in their way. In the city where they served the goddess of chaos, there was no order and there was no law.
Entreri had never paid attention to the laws of the land he lived in, but it was not because he disliked them, but because he thought they were insufficient for his way of life. Entreri took care of the problems the law could not handle. If he was sent to kill someone, that person had done something to deserve it. Instead of going to war with another guild, Entreri took care of the problem with more precision. Among the thieving guilds of Calimport, he had been the law. He had been the one to instill structure and order in the city.
On the surface people were no less ambitious, than in the underdark, but above, there were laws and rules one must follow. This meant you had to achieve your wealth and prominence through honorable means. And once you had achieved success, those same laws protected you from others who wished to take it from you. Because of that order people could live in relative comfort. As long as you did nothing wrong, you had no reason to live in fear. Entreri rarely killed the innocent.
One could say that in Menzoberranzan there were no innocents. Perhaps, but that was the result of the system, not the cause of it. Entreri lived by a code. He lived by the law. It might be his own personal law, but it was better than nothing. What scared him was chaos. A killer with no code or no honor. Someone who would kill for no reason and was impossible to predict. These were the ingredients to instill fear within Entreri. There was one more thing that was necessary though: skill.
There had been plenty of ambitious assassins in Calimport that had tried to steal Entreri's position. They had no honor or code. They killed for pleasure and fun. Entreri was not scared of these killers any more than he was scared of Regis. They were more skilled than an average peasant was perhaps, but they had no true proficiency, and Entreri had killed them easily.
If this resurrected Drizzt was like his people, Entreri did have something to fear. Not only Entreri, but this entire city would be at the drow's mercy. The guards would find him. They would die. John would come calling. Entreri only had to wait.
The pounding on his new door could only be one person. Entreri rose from his chair and answered it. John walked in without a hello. "Tell me you can handle this situation. Tell me can kill this vile creature."
Entreri watched the caption walked in and paced violently in his small home as he fired off his questions. "I take it you found him," Entreri said as he closed the door. "Or did he find you?"
"He killed six of my men as quickly and as efficiently as you can slaughter goblins," John said. He stopped and looked seriously at Entreri. "But these were not goblins. These were trained fighters, all of them. They could slaughter a dozen goblins themselves with little effort. They were human beings and he killed them."
"Did you get his name?" Entreri asked, wanting to make sure before they continued.
"You were right, it is this Drizzt you spoke of. Dark skin, pointy ears, not too tall, member of the sixth house of Menzo-something-or-other."
Entreri froze. "What was that? What house did you say?"
John searched his memory for the exact words. "He called himself Drizzt Do'Urden of Darm-something N'a'shez-something, House Do'Urden, sixth house of Menzo-something."
"Menzoberranzan," Entreri completed for him, his knees suddenly weak. He sat down.
"Yea," John agreed, "that was it. You do know him, right? You said you killed him once, right?"
"Yes and no," Entreri said, working things through as quickly as he could. "I killed a dark elf who had rejected his people. An elf who could no longer stand the ways of his people and left to live a life on the surface. A dark elf who became a ranger and served Milieki. A dark elf who would no sooner associate himself with his old house or city than I would enroll to be a paladin.
"The elf who killed your men is not that Drizzt. He is a Drizzt who never left the underdark. He is a ruthless killer who has embraced the ways of his people. I don't know where he came from, or why he has been embodied in the Drizzt that I knew," as Entreri spoke he fingered the unicorn figurine he had taken from the crime scene. It was not exactly standard issue in Menzoberranzan. "All that matters is that he is here."
"And he wants to go home," John said. "He stressed that quite clearly. He threatened the lives of my men and everyone in the city if I did not arrange a means for him to go home by tonight. Please tell me you can accomplish this."
Entreri thought for a while. He could open his magic portal and transport Drizzt far away to his treasure cave north of Karenstoch. Entreri remembered that Elliorn was there now. Maybe he could let Drizzt and his new ranger friend fight it out. Entreri shook his head. He knew who would win. And Drizzt would then just find a way to get back here to kill him. Then Entreri would live in fear because he would never know when the attack would come. If he was going to handle this he needed to do it here and now while the problem was in front of him.
"The only home I can send him to is hell," Entreri said. "Which is actually nicer than Menzoberranzan, or so I've heard."
"Is that your answer?" John asked. "Are you going to kill him?"
Entreri heard the hidden words in that last question. The captain meant to ask, "Are you going to be able to kill him?" The captain had still not ever seen the assassin fight. He had seen the results many times, but he had never seen him in action. He had seen Drizzt in action ever-so-briefly in his guardhouse, and he doubted this aging human in front of him could match it.
"It will take more cunning and planning than slaughtering a few goblins, but I will do it," Entreri said. "He said you have until nightfall?" Entreri clarified. It was noon now. John nodded. "Then I will meet you in front of the guard house at night. Right now, I need to prepare."
Entreri looked at the captain curiously, thinking he had made it pretty clear that he wished John to leave. The captain finally got the message and left. He paused at the door, wondering if he should stress how deadly this drow was or how many lives were at stake, but he passed. Entreri knew what he was doing - he hoped.
Entreri closed the door behind the captain and then quickly opened his ivory portal into his treasure cave. He had taken many books from the thieving guild he had worked for briefly in Karenstoch, and while most of them were labeled as myths and fairy tales, Entreri knew they held truth. Now he needed to do a little research to see if there was some way he could gain Drizzt's trust long enough to kill him. He did not want to fight him straight up.
* * *
Drizzt was still lying on his bed when a knock came at the door. He composed himself and spoke a word that released the magical lock on the door. A priestess entered. She was gorgeous. Her face looked like silk, her features regally framed within the gold jewelry of a priestess. Drizzt was never a fan of the holy robes worn by Lloth's servants, but hers hugged her curves, hinting at the incredible body that lay beneath. Drizzt's mind raced with possibilities until he realized that he was probably looking at his niece, even though she was easily several decades older than he was.
"I am not feeling well tonight," Drizzt said, knowing full well what this female wanted. Or at least he thought he did.
"But you promised me a night out," she said, great disappointment in her voice.
Out? he thought. Out where?
The priestess mistook the confusion for forgetfulness. "You were going to take me out tonight. The last night we were together, I said how I had not been out of the compound in years. You promised to remedy that situation. I was looking forward to it. If you are feeling ill, perhaps I can help."
Drizzt had promised to take this female out for a night on the town? Nobles did not walk the streets of Menzoberranzan. This city was like any on the surface. It had its rundown sections and seedy restaurants. The weak houses populated these, and not even they wanted to be there. The few quality entertainment establishments were still only visited by the houses that were centuries from attaining power within the city. Smart matrons would not risk their house members to the predators that roamed the streets. If Drizzt had made arrangements to leave the house for recreation, he had probably done it before. This might be educational.
"It's only a slight headache," he replied, rising from his bed and throwing her a sly grin. "It's nothing a few hours with you can't cure."
Her face brightened considerably. Drizzt walked up to her, put his hand on her waist, and quickly stepped around her, hugging her slim frame with his strong arms. His face bent around her shoulder as he blew her thick hair away from her neck. "And what should I call you tonight?" he whispered tantalizingly in her ear.
The priestess's whole body shivered under his touch. "Ooohh," she giggled. "I don't think we need to role-play tonight," she responded. "Catrina, will be fine."
Drizzt stepped away from her quickly. She spun around to look at him. He bowed slightly and motioned to his open door. "Then Catrina it shall be," he said. "Shall we leave?"
She smiled and stepped quickly past him and out the door. Drizzt sucked in sharply as she walked by, repressing his hormones as best he could. He was going to have to play this awful close if it was going to work. He wanted to get information tonight, but that would only be possible if he acted as this reality's Drizzt was supposed to. He closed his bedroom door and followed.
Drizzt let Catrina lead the way. She did not know where she was going, but each time she asked Drizzt for a suggestion, he feigned ignorance. She laughed at him and played along, but Drizzt really was ignorant. The only tour of the city he had ever gotten was when he had been in the Academy's patrol. They had left the main cavern through many different side paths and it was then necessary to cross the city at various angles.
As they walked the street, Drizzt could feel hundreds of eyes upon them. Catrina was provocatively dressed, but Drizzt knew it went beyond that. You could not see that in the infrared anyway. They were being watched because all drow were watched. The streets were not safe. While Drizzt stayed on a very alert guard, he noticed that his companion seemed very free and open. She enjoyed her time away from home like a child being allowed to go with her father into the city for the first time.
Drizzt knew this was not normal for a priestess of Lloth. They were not only always serious, but they were always on guard and would never walk down the dangerous streets of Menzoberranzan without an entourage and several magical protections in place. Drizzt thought about that. She did have protection: him.
The more Drizzt saw of his "new" house, the more he was confused. His sisters hated him because his mother treated him as the most important among them. The other females seemed to worship him. The eyes of each female he had walked passed between his room and his mother's audience chamber had been very revealing. Even the way Dianka had called him master showed more respect than Drizzt ever remembered Zaknafein getting.
The way all the females giggled and frolicked around him, he felt like a pasha within his own harem. He could imagine the stories they traded between themselves and what Catrina must have been told about how Drizzt would make sure nothing happened to her. But he could not protect her against everything, could he? The only way they would be assured of safety was if every other drow consciously withheld attack. But why would they?
Drizzt would be a prize if killed. He watched each guard post that they passed carefully eyeing up this odd pair. Catrina was open to the world, taking no caution to keep her voice down and no effort to hide her status as a priestess of the sixth house. And then there was Drizzt. The weapon master watched the house guards take one quick look at him and then relax. They lowered their crossbows and let the pair pass.
If Dantrag or Uthengental or any other prominent drow had foolishly walked passed the Do'Urden compound or any other, the guards would have opened fire, happily. Why was Drizzt allowed to pass so freely? Drizzt could tell that he had magical protection on him against simple crossbows, but these guards could not know that. There was only one thing they could be thinking: What if they missed? What if the first shot did not kill him? What would happen then? How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?
The establishment Catrina chose seemed clean enough. Drizzt recognized none of the house emblems he saw on the many drow in the gambling house, but they all recognized his. The crowd parted for them and whispered murmurs followed after they passed. Drizzt's hearing was sharp enough to pick it up, and the awe and respect he was hearing was amazing. He expected to hear people speaking ill of him and how they wished him dead, but instead it was as if he were royalty and the drow around him felt honored to be in his presence.
Catrina noticed none of what went on around them. Instead she made her way toward the center of the main gambling room where the big games were taking place. She had brought a modest coin pouch with her and jumped into the first game before Drizzt could even walk up beside her. She gathered the dice and gave them a toss. Unsurprisingly, she did not win.
"Five is a loser," the game operator said as he quickly raked in her coins. "Care to try . . ." his voice trailed off as he looked up to see Drizzt standing behind his newest player. Drizzt watched as the operator's eyes went to Catrina, down to her coins, and then up to Drizzt. It looked as if he was waiting for permission from the weapon master to pull in her coins. Drizzt nodded. "Care to try again?" the operator asked after swallowing down a lump.
"I don't know," Catrina said looking down into her pouch.
"Go for it," Drizzt said, already knowing what the outcome would be. "Put fifty on three."
"But," she turned to look at her escort, "the further you go from seven, the less likely you are to win."
Drizzt understood the game, but he also understood that the laws of probability had very little to say about what happened in this game. "Yes, but the closer you go to seven, the less the payout is," he replied. She did not look convinced. "Trust me," he said, tossing her a crooked grin.
Catrina shrugged indifferently and put her money on three. Drizzt could feel the game operator's nerves on edge as Catrina picked up the dice and rolled. She rolled a two and a one. "Three's a winner," the operator said almost before the dice had finished bouncing around.
Drizzt could feel the magic at work through the many gems he wore and smiled to himself. Catrina did not notice, but after she one twice more on bets of two and ten, she figured out luck had little to do with it. A few other drow at the table realized this as well and began to bet alongside Catrina. Before each roll, the operator looked at Drizzt and each time Drizzt's face let him know that his companion better win.
He understood quickly that this facility would willingly go bankrupt, cheating themselves out of a fortune if Drizzt so desired. After Catrina had quadrupled her money, he escorted her over to a table at the side of the room. A waiter was with them before they were even settled. "Good evening, Master Do'Urden," he said quickly, nodding to Catrina as well. To address a male before a priestess of Lloth was unheard of, but Catrina did not respond. "We have our best wine on ice for you. Two glasses?"
Drizzt nodded. "That will be fine." He turned to Catrina. "Would you like something to eat?" She shook her head. "Two glasses and the bottle," Drizzt said. He watched the waiter flinch, but he bowed and left. He was gone for less than a minute and returned with what Drizzt had requested. One sip of the wine and Drizzt knew that it was worth ten times what Catrina had already won tonight. There was no mention of a bill.
Catrina drank deeply from her wine and Drizzt filled her glass twice. She talked endlessly about her chores within the house and how her mother (Maya) had her and her other sisters always scrambling about to maintain the chapel and prepare her personal offerings and meditation rituals. Rumor was that there would be a clash soon that would move House Do'Urden up in rank. Some even said it might come with House Baenre.
"Do you know anything about that?" she asked as Drizzt filled her glass for the third time. He had only drunk half of his.
"I am the weapon master of our house," he said slowly. "If there is to be a battle, I will be the first to know about it."
"Well, is there going to be?" she asked. "I mean with House Baenre?"
Drizzt grew suddenly stiff as he looked toward the entrance to the gaming house. "Yes, I believe there will be."
"Really," she was shocked he was this open with information. "When?"
"Much sooner than you think," Drizzt replied. He suddenly wished there was somewhere he could hide. Berg'inyon Baenre had just walked into the tavern. Drizzt watched carefully as he moved slowly into the main room and toward the front bar. There was a slight hitch in his step, and unless Drizzt was misreading his magical warning devices, Berg'inyon was a bit drunk. Drizzt could sense a cloud of inebriation surrounding his former classmate.
Berg'inyon did not look in Drizzt's direction right away, but the other patrons in the tavern who knew who he was were shocked he would visit this section of the city, and their eyes constantly went from him to where Drizzt sat in the corner. Berg'inyon picked up on this soon enough and his head slowly rotated over to where Drizzt was sitting. The inebriation left him in a second.
Drizzt had originally thought it odd that this version of himself would so casually wander outside the protection of his home. After seeing the reception he got, he understood how it was possible. Berg'inyon was not getting the same response. The only thing preventing ambitious assassins from jumping the vulnerable weapon master of the first house was that they all knew Drizzt was present and would defer to him.
Drizzt wanted to avoid contact at first, but quickly realized this drow would be a very good source of information. As he walked up to the table, Drizzt relaxed and played the situation as he thought he should. "Welcome Berg'inyon. It has been too long. Please join us." Drizzt raised his glass and tossed back what remained inside.
Catrina had been facing Drizzt with her back to the entrance, but now she spun about to see Berg'inyon standing over them. She began to mumble the beginnings of a spell, but Drizzt caught her eye and faintly shook his head. Catrina looked confused at first, but then remembered whom she was with. She would be safe, and in addition to a night out, she might get to see action between the two best weapon masters in the city.
"I should have figured you would be whoring it up in a dive like this," Berg'inyon growled, his hands quivering over his blades.
A wave of anger flashed over Catrina's face at the insult, but she let Drizzt defend her. "Nonsense," Drizzt said, reclining in his chair and actually putting his feet up on the table, "this is a fine establishment, and I won't tolerate any veiled insults toward my beautiful niece. Now please, pull up a chair and tell us how things are."
Berg'inyon attacked. He just could not pass up the opportunity. With Drizzt leaning away from him, one hand holding a glass of wine and the other reaching for a bottle and his feet propped up within arm's reach, he did not see how he could be foiled. Drizzt saw the move coming before Berg'inyon had even walked over. He was amazed by how clearly he could think things through and how slowly it all seemed to happen. It was as if he could pause time, pull out a pen and parchment and actually diagram the move.
Berg'inyon drew his right hand weapon and slashed down at Drizzt's feet. The left boot slapped out sharply at the weapon, striking with the outside of the foot against the weapon hilt. The strength of the kick straightened the attack so the tip of the sword was pointing straight up. Drizzt's right foot then rotated 90 degrees and jammed its steel tip into Berg'inyon's exposed wrist. The entire arm went numb, and Drizzt quickly dropped his left foot and kicked back up into the pommel of the now loosely held weapon. The sword popped out easily and flipped toward Drizzt who reached forward to snag it.
Berg'inyon drew his second weapon, and Drizzt actually grew slightly impatient as he waited for the drow to bring it to bear. Drizzt blocked the attack into the wooden table, flexing his powerful right arm to imbed Berg'inyon's weapon deep into the wood. The overmatched drow could not pull his weapon free without extra effort and had to let go as Drizzt jabbed forward, forcing him back.
Drizzt swung his feet to the floor and stood, pulling the stuck sword free as easily as if it were a toothpick in a block of cheese. Drizzt now held both of Berg'inyon's weapons. He looked at them for a moment and then tossed them back to his unarmed opponent. "Please," Drizzt said, "I promised the owner I would not fight in here." He motioned toward the door.
Berg'inyon's first instinct after receiving his weapons back was to run, but instead he walked slowly toward the exit, making sure to move sideways and keep Drizzt in sight. Drizzt half turned to Catrina to ask her to grab the bottle, but the priestess had already tucked the valuable wine into her cloak.
A crowd had already gathered outside. The owner of the establishment had lost a lot of money because of Drizzt's visit, but in the next few days, after word of this encounter spread, he would do ten times his normal business. Servicing Drizzt was a curse and a blessing.
"Now what could you possibly be doing out here?" Drizzt asked once the two of them were outside and locked within a circle of spectators. "A noble of the first house has no business in this area of the city."
"What?" Berg'inyon asked, fury suddenly leaping back into his eyes. His swords swayed back and forth in front of him. Drizzt figured his anger stemmed from the obvious reference to how at home Drizzt was out here. His confusion only grew as Berg'inyon continued. "You know full well I am no longer a noble. How far will you go to insult me and my house?"
Drizzt's confusion was clearly evident on his face. Berg'inyon misinterpreted it. "Don't tell me you've worn the sword for so long that you forgot it is there. I can't allow you to continue in this mockery of my house."
Drizzt took his eyes off Berg'inyon for a moment to look down at Kazid'hea. He wore it strapped behind his right scimitar with the Baenre emblem prominently displayed. Drizzt smiled as he looked up, finding it funny that he would be so bold to wear it with the emblem out. "Dantrag's last words were that he never wanted you to wield the sword," Drizzt said.
Berg'inyon rushed. Drizzt easily caught the attack with his weapons, only drawing his scimitars at the last second. He pushed both of Berg'inyon's weapons out wide and kicked between them, catching the weaker drow in the face and actually flipping him backwards. Drizzt was just getting used to this new type of dominant fighting style. It was so easy, he hardly had to put any effort into it.
Berg'inyon got up slowly, knowing that at any moment Drizzt could kill him if he wanted. Houseless like he was, death was inevitable. If it was Drizzt who killed him, he could at least maintain his title as second best weapon master in the city. "But at least Dantrag knew how to fight," Drizzt said, earning another attack.
At the last second, Drizzt sheathed one of his weapons, easily slapping away the attacks with one scimitar. Berg'inyon did not like being toyed with, but felt that he was also being underestimated, and pressed the attack. Drizzt blocked the attacks easily, snapping his empty hand between the flurry of blades to punch Berg'inyon repeatedly in the face. His right eye closed up after one sharp blow, and Drizzt swept both Berg'inyon's weapons to his left and brought in a roundhouse punch from the blindside.
Berg'inyon was spun to the ground. He popped back up and Drizzt punched him twice before he could compose an attack of his own. The second blow was made with Drizzt's weapon hilt and sent Berg'inyon flying back fifteen feet. "Enough already," Drizzt said. He almost said, "you fight like a girl," but quickly remembered that down here it was a compliment. "You are pathetic. Go run home to your mother and stay where you belong."
Berg'inyon slowly dragged himself to his feet, leaving his weapons lying on the ground. They did no good anyway. Blood poured from his broken nose as well as several other gashes on his face. He smiled at Drizzt as he slowly spread his arms out wide and walked back toward him. "Yes, please," he said, half-sarcastic, half-pleading, "send me to meet my mother. Give me peace at last."
Drizzt was stunned. Was he asking to be killed? Was he to meet his mother in hell? Was Matron Baenre dead? Drizzt remembered that Berg'inyon had said he was no longer a noble. He glanced down at Khazid'hea again. To kill Dantrag was impressive, but no more so than to kill Zaknafein. It was not something to so foolishly brag about. Was he displaying the Baenre emblem for a different reason? Had he killed Matron Baenre?
Drizzt prodded Berg'inyon's chest with an extended scimitar, stopping the drow's advance. Berg'inyon leaned against the weapon, but it would take more pressure than that to push through his magical chain mail. Instead of providing that extra pressure, Drizzt suddenly released his weapon, allowing Berg'inyon to stumble forward. Drizzt swiped deftly at his piwafwi as he fell past, and picked up the Baenre emblem he had cut free.
Berg'inyon could feel the loss of the magical emblem and spun around on the ground, clutching at the bare spot on his cloak. Drizzt could feel his magical items repelling the emblem. He tossed it at Berg'inyon's feet. "You no longer deserve to wear this." Drizzt was finished for now, having collected too many unanswered questions. He motioned to Catrina standing on the edge of the crowd, and she happily trotted past the humiliated Baenre to follow her escort.
Catrina was aglow with how Drizzt had handled himself and went on about how the other females in their house would be jealous they missed it. Drizzt did not listen. He needed answers and he needed them quickly. This city had changed too much since he had left, and he had a bad feeling he was responsible for most of it. He needed information, but he was at a loss for whom he could go to. He tried to think of someone who could help him. It did not take too long.
* * *
Entreri stood outside of the guardhouse as he watched Drizzt approach. There could be no doubt about it now. This was Drizzt Do'Urden. Entreri could also see from the drow's swagger that this was not the Drizzt he knew. The assassin had already figured both of these things out, but there was something to be said for seeing it for himself.
Entreri stood alone in the darkened street except for two fine horses. Drizzt seemed to know something was amiss and stopped, still 50 feet from Entreri. "Who are you?"
"I am Artemis Entreri. I am a Darkcloak."
Drizzt eyed him up suspiciously. "You are Artemis Entreri? I expected someone bigger. No matter," Drizzt walked to within a dozen feet, "you have the power to send me back. I don't feel like standing here one second more than is necessary."
"I too wish to conduct our business as quickly as possible. I no more enjoy this land than you."
Drizzt's head cocked to the side slightly. "Business? What are you talking about? I am not here for your business. I am here by mistake. You are going to send me back."
"It is no mistake that you are here," Entreri said. "I called you."
A scimitar leaped out and Drizzt held the point quivering under Entreri's chin. "Why did you call me?" Everyone else had said he had come there by accident. Several had claimed responsibility for the summoning, but none had said they wanted it until this Artemis fellow.
"Our goddesses demanded it," Entreri replied.
"You serve Lloth?" Drizzt scoffed. "She cares nothing for humans and even less for males. You need to make sense soon or you will loose your head."
Entreri just smiled back. Under different circumstances he and this Drizzt might have been friends. The assassin shook his head. Drow did not have friends. All they had were associates they had not killed yet. "I serve Shar, the goddess of darkness and the night. Our deities are not so dissimilar."
"Lloth serves no one and associates with no one. You will not be able to talk yourself out of this one, you lying thie--"
Cycle flashed out of Entreri's sheath even faster than Drizzt had drawn his scimitar. It swiped the extended blade out of the way and Entreri then held it in a defensive posture. "I will not have to talk my way out of anything, stupid drow. If need be I'll fight my way out, but I'd rather do neither. My goddess has charged me with a mission, and I can not be blamed if yours did not feel the need to let you know what was happening."
Drizzt drew his other weapon and stood ready for an attack, but he paused as he looked at Entreri's frost blade. Drizzt knew a skilled opponent when he saw one, he relaxed his position a bit. "Very well, tell me of this task you have called me for."
"The time of troubles was a scary time for the gods," Entreri started. "When and how their powers would be returned to them was uncertain at best. Some saw the need to tuck the secrets of their power away in case things were returned differently than they had been. Shar and Lloth do not socialize, as you pointed out, but these were desperate times. They consolidated their power within a magical vessel and hid it within the mountain range a days travel from here. Shar is the goddess of forgetfulness as well, and she felt it was lost to everyone except her.
"When the time of troubles was over, they saw that they had been over cautious, but left the vessel in place should the need arise in the future. It has not stayed hidden. A sect of monks in the mountains has discovered it and should they unwrap the secrets of our goddesses' power, things could get uncomfortable."
Drizzt laughed. "Lloth has nothing to fear from a few humans. Your goddess might be weak, but mine is not."
"Lloth is powerful indeed," Entreri agreed, "but no more so than any other deity in the realms. What if these monks should impart the knowledge they have discovered to a priest of Selune, or Corellon Larethian."
Drizzt calmed his anger, seeing the human's point. "What assurances do I have that you are telling the truth?"
"How else would I know to call you?" Entreri replied. "Shar demanded that her greatest warrior and Lloth's greatest warrior retrieve this vessel and destroy it. After that, she has promised to grant me the power to send you back. When I inquired as to whom the greatest warrior was among Lloth's people, Drizzt Do'Urden weapon master of the sixth house in Menzoberranzan was the only name that came up." Entreri guessed at the weapon master part only because he had no knowledge of Zaknafein. It was a good guess.
"You are the greatest of Shar's followers?"
Entreri drew his dagger to join his frost blade. "Would you like to find out?"
Drizzt could kill him, but if this human was telling the truth, then the only way he could get home was if he went along with this mission. And if Lloth really had sanctioned this task, he would be foolish to go against it. That he did not know about it made sense. He never talked to Lloth, and his sisters hated him. Drizzt smiled and sheathed his weapons. He paused with his hands still on his hilts. "If what you say is true, why did you summon me to this body? My true self is much stronger and has better weapons?"
Entreri thought for a moment. "Your other items were of drow make. They would not retain their magical strength under the light of the sun. I hope the blades I procured for you are adequate. As far as the body, I needed something that would be able to operate within daylight. I'm sure you've noticed already that your eyes are not as sensitive as they should be."
Drizzt nodded at this explanation. "They are adequate. Let us get on with this mission before my presence back home his missed."
"I have been promised that I will be able to return you to the exact moment you left, so you will not be missed."
Drizzt smiled, remembering where he had been when he had been transported. "That would be nice." He motioned to the two horses. "Is that how we are to travel?"
Entreri nodded. "They are easier to control than your riding lizards back in Menzoberranzan," he explained, knowing that Drizzt had likely never ridden a horse before, "and much faster."
Entreri's expansive knowledge of Drizzt's life went a long way toward assuring the drow that this man was on the level. Drizzt walked up to the nearest horse and examined the saddle. He did not have the same ranger instincts as his alternate self, and the horse neighed uneasily under his cold touch. Drizzt grabbed the mount with two hands, and Entreri was ready.
His entire story was meant to put Drizzt off his guard, but the assassin still did not feel comfortable attacking him, knowing that a Drizzt who had lived in the underdark all his life was never really at ease or off guard. It was only when Drizzt's hands were securely attached to the saddle and bridle that Entreri felt comfortable attacking.
He stepped up quickly, and rammed his dagger hard into the drow's back. The mithril chain Drizzt wore was good, but it could not stand up to such a direct and powerful attack from the magical weapon. The energy flow back into Entreri's arm was fantastic as Drizzt reeled up in pain, shouting out a dozen curses. He spun away from the attack, forcing Entreri to remove the dagger or let go. He kept his weapon.
As Drizzt spun, he pulled Twinkle and meant to cut off Entreri's head, but the assassin dropped into a crouch and used Cycle to skewer the drow as he came about. Drizzt stumbled backward under the attack, and Entreri did let go this time. He listened to the familiar sound of the frost blade at work as Drizzt sucked hollowly for breath. With Twinkle still in his right hand, he carefully pulled Cycle out with his left, grunting as he pulled free chunks of flesh frozen to the blade.
Entreri leaped forward with his regular dirk in hand, quickly slapping the frost blade out of the drow's grasp before Drizzt could use it in an attack. His dagger tried to find an opening in Drizzt's right side, but the weapon master operated on instinct, working his blue scimitar up and down to keep the life-sucking dagger away. He had recognized that sting as magical too.
Entreri pressed his attack, but Drizzt impossibly got his feet under him, backpedaling faster than Entreri could run forward. Drizzt kept only the one scimitar out, using his left hand to clutch his gut. "What trickery is this?" he cried.
Entreri held off, unsure why Drizzt had seemed to recover so quickly from such a devastating wound. "Stupid drow. I called you here to see if you were really as powerful as everyone said. I guess they were wrong. You are just as pathetic as any other cretin."
Drizzt wanted to cry out in his defense but he felt too weak to form words. Entreri took this opportunity to launch forward again, as confident as ever. Again, his blades hit only air, as Drizzt was able to deftly sidestep the attack and back up quickly.
"This isn't over," Drizzt croaked.
"Oh, I think it is-" but Drizzt had turned and ran. Entreri started to give chase, but the drow was already lost in the shadows. "How?" Entreri asked. Then he remembered the bracers. He had watched Drizzt take them off Dantrag's body, but the only time they had fought since then had been in Jarlaxle's crystal tower when all the magics had been removed.
"I thought you said you were going to kill him." Entreri turned around quickly at the familiar voice. It was John. He walked up to the assassin from the darkened doorway where he had watched. "As far as I can tell, all you did was make him mad."
Entreri did not say anything. He walked back and picked up his frost blade. He stowed his weapons and tried to think of what he was going to do now.
"Also, I don't think it was very sporting of you to stab him in the back. If you are such a great fighter, you should have been able to stand up to him."
"This isn't a game," Entreri said. "The only rule is to stay alive."
"Assassin's credo number eight?" John asked.
"Seven," Entreri corrected. "Eight says that the winner is the last one standing."
"Is that going to be you?"
Entreri leveled a serious gaze on the captain. "It better be. For the safety of this city, it better be."
* * *
Drizzt ran through the streets of the unfamiliar town as quickly as he could. He could feel the wound in his chest thawing quickly, and he knew that as soon as it did, he would bleed to death within minutes. He could only think of one place where he could find what he needed.
The magic shop was now boarded up, but the city counsel had still not decided on what to do with the inventory. Drizzt easily broke in and scoured the shelves for something he could use. Trained as a warrior, he had not discounted his short time at Sorcere, the school for drow mages that all students at Melee-Magthere must attend for six months. He learned everything he could about a mage's weaknesses and how to defeat them with standard weapons. He also learned what he could about healing and strengthening salves and potions. He rarely got injured in battle, but now he was glad he had spent the time to learn.
Five minutes after entering the shop and just when his wound began to seep, he was chugging down a hastily mixed concoction. It tasted terrible, but Drizzt could feel it working right away. As the physical cold left his body, he could feel the magical cold come in and hold his wound in stasis while it healed. He searched for a few more balms and ointments for the stab wound in his back, and after a while, he felt strong again. He did not feel strong enough to go up against one as tricky as Entreri, but he would be ready within a day. He had never lost before, and he did not like it.
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