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 4: Seeking Help
Catti-brie and Wulfgar were recognized at the gate to Silverymoon. Each of them were too famous for their liking, and the honor the guards bestowed upon them made each blush. Their matter was a serious one though, and they conveyed that immediately. The guards respected their urgency. Their horses were taken to stables and two guards escorted them through the city.
Catti-brie had been to Silverymoon only once before, and then too it had been to visit Lady Alustriel in search of Drizzt. Since then she had been to Menzoberranzan and had seen the wonders of the south aboard the Sea Sprite. Though the splendors of Silverymoon outshone many other great cities, she did not walk the streets with her mouth agape this time.
Wulfgar, on the other hand, had never seen such sites. The spiraling towers and domed buildings were so spotlessly clean and intricate that it appeared he was walking through a painting. This had to be some artist's imagination of how a perfect city would look and could not be real. His experience with cities was not limited, but he had spent most of his time in the seedier sections, in search of information or in search of anonymity.
Silverymoon did not appear to have any rundown sections. There were stores and restaurants like any other city, but instead of weapons and ale, these establishments sold silk and wine. Being as big as he was, Wulfgar was intimidated by little, but the concept of this city went a long way toward making the barbarian seem insignificant.
The escorts kept a steady pace, and the travelers moved across the large city quickly, making a straight line toward the western wall and the palace of Lady Alustriel. "Is she expecting you?" one of the guards asked as they stopped at the front entrance to the glorious building.
"I've known her to expect many things," Catti-brie said slyly, but then shook her head. "Our urgency did not allow us to make arrangements."
The guard nodded. "I shall send a page up to inform her of your presence." They walked through the front entry and into a lavish waiting room. "Wait here and our lady will be with you shortly."
One look at the luxurious couches in the waiting room, and the two road dirty travelers knew they would never dream of sitting on them. Instead they stood in silence, patiently waiting despite the nature of their visit. Catti-brie used to be impatient, and certainly she still held on to some of those qualities when her friends were in danger, but her time with Drizzt had done much to quell those anxious feelings. It had taken them over 24 hours to make the journey from Settlestone. Even if Drizzt was in danger, five more minutes would not make a difference.
Catti-brie remembered her first visit to this palace again and how she had been overwhelmed with the decor. She had thought it a waste when so many others lived in poverty. She preferred a rugged life in the dale. She needed very little in the way of luxury items, and she had thought Alustriel quite superficial to desire them for herself.
Since her first visit, though, she had thought many times about what it would be like to live in a palace, taking scented baths and wearing perfume. It was something that, had she been brought up differently, she would have liked very much. As it was, she was happy living a simple life among her friends. And she had also come to realize that while there certainly were incredibly poor people living in the realms, no one in Silverymoon fit that description and Alustriel had her luxury at the expense of no one.
"I don't care, if they had not made arrangements, you should have shown them directly up."
Wulfgar and Catti-brie heard the voice coming down the stairs at the edge of the room. "But Lady, you might have been at meal, I did not want-"
"I don't care if I was in the bath, I will not have friends of mine-" but she cut off her tirade as she rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and saw Catti-brie and Wulfgar standing and waiting.
"Catti-Brie, daughter of King Bruenor, it is good to see you again, and . . ." she paused as she looked at her other guest, "Wulfgar?" She turned back to Catti-brie. "I thought you said he had died."
"He had," she responded.
"We do not have time for stories now," Wulfgar said sternly. "We have come searching information about Drizzt. Can you help us?"
Catti-brie was shocked by his rudeness. Didn't he know who he was talking to? But she tempered that reaction with the memory of how she had first addressed Lady Alustriel. Raised by dwarves or raised by barbarians, take your pick. Both instilled the same principles, and Wulfgar was displaying that now.
Before Catti-brie could apologize for his response, Alustriel smiled at them both and spoke up. "The drow has disappeared again, has he? Have you thought of getting him a leash?"
Wulfgar huffed, thinking he was the butt of the joke, but Catti-brie spoke up. "This is different than before," she said. "We believe he was taken and not of his own accord."
Alustriel contemplated this possibility for a moment and then made up her mind. "Well, there is little we can do down here, please, come up stairs to my chambers and we shall see what we can find."
Like Catti-brie had though before, Drizzt had been missing for well over a day and now and a few moments of care and preparation would not make a big difference. They climbed the stairs, and as Alustriel moved slowly about her room, preparing a few magical items around a scrying bowl of crystal clear water, Wulfgar paced nervously. The older woman ignored her barbarian guest as best she could and instead exchanged pleasant conversation with Catti-brie about the welfare of Bruenor and the other peoples of the north.
"Are you going to help us or just quiz us on things that do not concern?" Wulfgar finally exploded after several minutes of silent pacing.
Alustriel stopped what she was doing and looked at the huge man. "What do you know about magic?" she asked calmly.
Wulfgar stopped his pacing with his fists balled beside him. He prepared a reply, but calmed himself. He looked as Catti-brie and Alustriel sat at a table on which many things had been prepared, and it looked as if they were ready to begin. They had come to Alustriel's home without warning requesting help without talk of payment. She must surely be a busy woman, but she had thrown all else aside to lend her aide. And here he was scolding her for it.
"I'm sorry," he said.
Alustriel cocked her head in amusement. She had expected a tirade instead of an apology. She had many things to say to this man who had obviously been through some very hard times if he had died and come back, but it appeared he already knew the lessons she wished to teach. "Come," she said.
Wulfgar walked over to her and Catti-brie and looked into the water as Alustriel began her spell. She gripped the locket with Drizzt's picture in one hand as she carefully sprinkled fine gold and diamond dust on the surface of the water. The sparkling powder did not sink but danced in dazzling patterns on the surface. Alustriel's eyes were half-closed, but her face reflected clearly in the simmering pool as her spirit fell into the spell.
It lasted only a few minutes, but Wulfgar and Catti-brie would look back on it and swear it had lasted an hour. "He is not dead?" Alustriel finally responded.
"That's it," Wulfgar blurted out before he could check himself. "That is all you have found?"
"Is that not what concerned you most?" she asked. Wulfgar looked properly rebuked. "Drizzt is still alive, but he is too distant for me to locate exactly where he is. If he has been taken against his will, then his captures either do not wish him dead, or he has escaped."
"What can we do now?" Catti-brie asked.
"You were right to bring this to me quickly, for if he had died, there would be little I could do far removed from the time of death, but now I'm afraid there is little we can do but wait."
"Wait?" neither Catti-brie nor Wulfgar was happy with that response.
"Yes, wait. Drizzt is far more aware of his situation that we are. If his absence is a conscious decision, then it would be unwise to invade his privacy, however, if he is in danger, then he will no doubt make every effort to get back home. I have confidence in his abilities and if he requires assistance, there are magical ways he might contact me."
"So that is your answer?" Catti-brie said, sounding a lot like Wulfgar. "We sit and wait."
"I will also monitor the pathway to the nether realms. While our world is vast, the tunnel between life and death is not. If Drizzt's spirit should start to make that journey, I will know of it immediately and will be able to locate him."
"You can do that?" Catti-brie asked. "You can keep him from dying?"
"It is not a simple task," she responded. "It will require all of my attention, and I can not do it for long, but I will keep a vigil watch for him."
Catti-brie and Wulfgar realized what this woman was saying and suddenly wished they could take back their request. Was she to sit in a trance all day long just waiting for Drizzt to die?
Alustriel could see the concern on their faces. "Do not worry," she laughed. "I would fear much more for the north if it lost their most valuable warrior than if the capitol city went without her leader for a few days. I will be fine. You, however, have been on the road a long time, and are no doubt tired and hungry. Your best course of action now is to rest and prepare yourselves should I need your assistance in the near future."
Wulfgar and Catti-brie said their thanks and left Alustriel alone as she prepared herself for her meditation. Alustriel only hoped that Drizzt would try to make contact with her soon, and not through dying. He had not the power on his own, but if he could meet a powerful ally, he would no doubt try to make a magical connection. For now all she could do was wait.
* * *
The city of Menzoberranzan was quiet.
Drizzt moved through the empty streets early in the morning as the heat of Narbondel was just beginning to climb. He had risen an hour ago and exited his compound undetected. Last night he had escorted Catrina all the way back to her room. She was too distracted by what she had seen to realize he was declining her "services" for the night. As he walked confidently through the dangerous city, he wondered how long he could refuse female companionship without raising concern within the house.
The Clawrift was over halfway across the city. Drizzt had never been to Jarlaxle's hideout before. He paused in thought. He had to amend his thinking. He did not remember ever going to the headquarters for Bregan D'aerthe, but that did not mean this version had never been there. He did not know if he would be welcomed or attacked. Either way, he needed to find it first. Catti-brie had been there, and she had told him some things about it such as the general location, but the description was sketchy. He had not exactly interrogated her planning a return visit. It had just been through casual reminiscing.
The edge of the Clawrift had seemed like a great place to build a compound in the early days of Menzoberranzan. With the nearly bottomless chasm running along one side, it gave the houses only three more that they needed to defend. But now Drizzt saw that it was littered with the burnt out and destroyed remains of those houses. The most recent had been House Oblodra, destroyed during the Time of Troubles, if the rumors Drizzt had heard were true and this reality was consistent.
There were no tracks visible leading into the Clawrift that would indicate a location for the Bregan D'aerthe cave, but Jarlaxle probably did not expect any of the drow who might come calling for him to have been trained as a ranger. In the infrared the ground was unremarkable, but as Drizzt produced a small glowing blue orb, he could see the swirling patterns of dust and dirt on the stone floor. The faint tracks that ended suddenly at the edge of the chasm were almost too obvious to the ranger. Drizzt stored the light orb back in his cloak, looked around for any observers, and then stepped into the Clawrift.
The cave opening was 100 feet down the side of the chasm. It was a convenient location. Depending on how fast a drow levitated down, most would not have enough time left in their spell to go back up. This meant if you guessed wrong at the location of the cave, or were denied entrance, there was nowhere to go but down. Personally, Drizzt felt like he could float back up and then down again. It had been a long time since he had used the levitation ability, but the strength he now had was definitely far in excess of anything he had possessed before.
The cave opening was not very ornate. Seen from any angle but straight on it would barely be noticeable. There was only a tiny ledge carved into the face of the cliff wall beneath the opening. It was more like a crack really, but it stretched out in either direction from the cave. If one Jarlaxle's band was being followed, they could levitate down 50 feet to the left or right of the entrance, and use the crack to work their way back over to the cave. Anyone who followed would never find the crease in the wall, and their spell would run out before they knew they had been tricked.
Perhaps the most distinguishing features of the cave were the two guards located twenty feet inside the tunnel. It took them a second to realize Drizzt was not a member, and then a second more to bring their crossbows up. Only one of them fired and even as the bolt was leaving his weapon, he swore and tried to pull it back.
To Drizzt the bolt appeared to approach in slow motion. His hands left their hold on the wall, and his right arm casually swiped in front of him, impossibly catching the bolt. Drizzt knew the bracers offered him exceptional speed, but he could feel several other gems sewn into his clothing pulsing with energy as he snagged the deadly projectile.
"Master Do'Urden," the guard who had fired said quickly, not even bothering with the hand code. "I had no idea it was you. Please, know that I would never have fired if I had recognized you sooner."
Drizzt watched him quake with fear. Of more interest was the other guard who had recognized him and had not fired. He was on one knee, his face to the floor. Drizzt had only ever seen that type of respect offered to a matron mother. He also was looking at his fellow guard out of the corner of his eye with a resigned pity. Drizzt understood the look. He assumed Drizzt would kill the attacking guard. To stay in character, Drizzt probably should have, but he was only willing to go so far.
The momentum of the heavy bolt had carried Drizzt away from the wall so he was floating in space, not near any handholds. "Please," the frightened guard was still jabbering, "I will get a rope. I will not let you fall."
Drizzt just smiled at him as he casually snapped the heavy bolt in half with one hand and willed himself back into the cave opening. Any drow could levitate up and down, some better than others, but none could move laterally. With that kind of control and with as strong as Drizzt's levitation spell already was, he could literally fly.
The already nervous drow had his jaw hit the floor as Drizzt stepped lightly into the tunnel and walked toward him. "I, uh, had, uh, we had, uh, no idea you would be coming. If you would have let us know, we, uh, could have been rea-"
"Do you expect me to post my itinerary at the base of Narbondel every morning so the whole city can be aware of my comings and goings?" Drizzt asked, more than a lot of sarcasm seeping through.
"Uh, no, uh," he tried to chuckle, "of course not. But maybe a private messenger to let us-"
"I am my own messenger," Drizzt replied. He leaned closer to the guard to stare deep into his eyes. "And you seem to have gotten the message clearly enough."
"Uh, right, you want to see Jarlaxle."
"Well I don't want to stand here all day talking with some stuttering fool."
This guard had killed many drow for far slighter insults. Now, if he kept his hands any further away from his sword hilts, he would be touching the ceiling. "Please follow me." The drow was nervous about placing Drizzt at his back, but it was another sign of respect, and Drizzt nodded for him to lead the way. Drizzt wondered if they would have allowed him to find his own way if he had been here before. He decided it was safest not to assume either way.
The walk took several minutes, and they traveled in silence. The end of the journey brought them to a shimmering portal suspended on the cave wall. "I will let Jarlaxle know yo-"
Drizzt grabbed the drow quickly by the collar and heaved him up into the air, pressed hard against the side wall of the cavern. "Perhaps you did not hear me earlier, what with your teeth chattering and all, but I said that I am my own messenger."
"It's just that Jarlaxle might be-"
Drizzt threw him hard back down the tunnel. "Go back to your post. If your leader is not ready for me, he will have to adjust."
The drow bowed and ran back to his post, just happy to be alive at this point. Drizzt turned back to the portal. As he neared it, his magical protections hummed quietly, letting him know they would not allow him to walk through a trap. The transition through the doorway was like moving through heavy cream. Even with his increased strength, Drizzt had to strain himself to move through it. On the other side, Jarlaxle was eating breakfast.
Drizzt stepped into Jarlaxle's private office and the mercenary froze. He nearly choked on the eggs in his mouth, but he swallowed them down under control, the rest of his body poised for immediate action. Drizzt recognized his reaction. It was different from the guards. They had been frightened and eager to please. Jarlaxle prepared for a fight, but Drizzt could still see the underlying motivation was fear. He did not know something existed that could bring the mercenary fear. What was he?
Besides Jarlaxle, Drizzt could sense many magical wards and protections in this room. Most he could not recognize, and he wished his equipment had come with instructions. Jarlaxle sat at a side table, in the corner of the room. Neither said anything for a while, just taking stock of each other. Jarlaxle was the first to speak. "And to what do I owe this pleasure, Master Do'Urden?"
There was some sarcasm in his voice, for it was impossible for Jarlaxle to speak otherwise, but Drizzt also detected a small twinge of respect. There were two ways he could play this. Drizzt could fall into the role of the vicious weapon master everyone assumed him to be. It was a role he was getting good at, but that would hardly produce the answers he was looking for. Instead, he decided to play it straight. "I need your help."
Nothing could have disturbed Jarlaxle more than those four words. He wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it, but he was not that foolish. "In what way?" he asked carefully.
"I need to know what has happened to me."
Jarlaxle, very slowly, stood from the table, careful to keep both his hands visible. His most valuable weapons were already in his sleeves anyway, he just hoped Drizzt did not know that. Though, if he thought any of his magical daggers could actually hit the deadly weapon master, he would have attacked the moment Drizzt had stepped in. "What has happened to you?" Jarlaxle echoed for clarification.
This situation was very uncomfortable. Jarlaxle liked to know what to expect. With Drizzt, it had always been easy. If you crossed him, you died. If you did not cross him, you still died, but not right away. The trick was not to engage him at all. Jarlaxle had been very good at that until now. He slowly moved to his desk, behind which, with its magical wards and protections, he would feel much safer.
"I am not who I seem," Drizzt began, watching his "host" sit down behind his desk and regain his usual comfortable composure. He was still not comfortable revealing himself to Jarlaxle, but he needed answers. He also did not know exactly how to go about this. "I am not from this world, or at least this reality."
"If you are trying to say that you are some powerful demon made flesh, I won't need that much convincing."
Drizzt snapped at him, and Jarlaxle braced visibly. "See that's just it," he said. "I'm not a killer. This world, this life, this personality, it's not me."
The puzzled expression on Jarlaxle's face let Drizzt know he was not making any sense. "A little over thirty years ago I left the underdark. I went to the surface and have lived a very prosperous life. My family chased me, but I escaped. Then this entire city chased me, and I escaped. Since then I have lived almost two decades in peace on the surface. Then, two nights ago, I woke up in this body, in this city, in this reality. I do not belong here."
Jarlaxle pondered this for a while. "Are you sure you did not just have a bad dream?" Drizzt growled, a sound he did not make often, but one that sounded perfectly natural to Jarlaxle. "Okay," Jarlaxle said, "it wasn't a dream. Still, it is quite a tale."
"I don't belong here," Drizzt said again. "I hate Lloth. I hate all drow and their diabolical ways. I live on the surface as a ranger with friends who I love and care about."
Jarlaxle brought a hand up to his mouth to hide the grin that was forming. "I'm sorry," he said, when Drizzt stopped to look at his reaction, "but if this is all true, it is very strange to hear the word 'love' come from you. If it is true, you obviously know what you are now, and should understand. And if it is not true . . ." Jarlaxle let the comment hang.
"Why would I make this up?" Drizzt asked. Jarlaxle did not respond, but he could think of several ways this could turn into a trap for him. But why would Drizzt want him dead? And if he did, why not just kill him? Why all the tricks?
"You have to admit it is a hard pill to swallow," Jarlaxle offered. "I am supposed to believe that you are not Drizzt Do'Urden, weapon master of the sixth house, but you are instead Drizzt Do'Urden, Elven Ranger, who lives on the surface. You look the same to me."
"You don't understand," Drizzt said getting frustrated. "This whole," he motioned with his arms at a loss as to how to describe it, "reality," he finally settled with, "is wrong. This is what life would have been like if I had stayed in Menzoberranzan. This is what life would have been like if my heart was evil like a proper drow's should be. Something has brought me here, and I need to know what."
"Interesting," Jarlaxle said, though he did not elaborate.
Drizzt grew angry. "What can I tell you that will convince you?" Jarlaxle just stared at him blankly. "You and my father were friends," Drizzt said suddenly. "In my reality you came to the surface and told me that you and my father had been friends."
Jarlaxle considered this. "Zaknafein could have told you that before you killed him."
"I did not kill my father!" Drizzt shouted at the mercenary. "I loved my father."
"Indeed," Jarlaxle agreed, again quite sarcastically.
"Is there anything I can say that will convince you?" Drizzt threw his arms up in frustration and turned to pace in the room. As he tried to come up with something, he heard an odd hissing sound and saw the portal out of the room shrink and snap shut. Drizzt spun back around to look at Jarlaxle. The eccentric drow was not going to attack, but instead had his feet up on his desk and was smiling.
"You mean to trap me here?" he asked. Maybe he was wrong to come to the mercenary for help.
Jarlaxle laughed freely. "No, I thought you might like a little more privacy for this conversation. We wouldn't want anyone walking in on us to discover your secret."
Drizzt looked at him puzzled. "You believe me?"
"Without any doubt what so ever," he replied. "Please," he motioned to a luxurious chair that had magically appeared in front of the desk, "have a seat."
Drizzt declined for now and continued to look at the strange drow. Jarlaxle explained for him. "I can not think of anything you might have said that would convince me," Jarlaxle said, "but the Drizzt Do'Urden that I have grown to know and hate would never - and I mean never - turn his back so casually on me." Jarlaxle was all smiles. "So, we were friends in your reality?"
Now it was Drizzt's turn to chuckle. "Not quite. You spared my life on more than one occasion, but I would not call us friends. Let's just say that we were of differing, but non-conflicting mindsets."
"Fair enough," Jarlaxle replied. "So what was I doing on the surface?"
"I did not come here to talk about you," Drizzt said. His eyes telling Jarlaxle plainly enough that while his heart might be pure, his body was still a killing machine.
"Of course, my mistake. You want to know what has happened to you."
"First," Drizzt said, steering the conversation, "I want to know who I am. When I walked into this room, I saw fear in your eyes. Do not try and deny it. It is the only look I have received since I got here two nights ago. I know it well. The Jarlaxle I know is not scared of much. Who am I?" Drizzt had put together several theories on what he was and what he had done, but he wanted to hear it from Jarlaxle first.
The mercenary did not try to refute the comment that he had been scared. He had been. Instead he paused deep in thought to think of how he should respond to the question at hand. Drizzt saw the lengthy, contemplative pause and understood the reply would be extensive. He took Jarlaxle up on his previous offer and sat down.
"This city is run by females," Jarlaxle began. "Matron mothers and high priestesses hold all of the real power in this city. Males are considered second-class citizens. All this you know, I'm sure, if, as you say, you rejected these ideals and left for the surface. But you have therefore not spent enough time living within the city to understand the true depth of that fact.
"There are many skilled males in this city, whether they be weapon masters or wizards. If pitted against a female in their chosen ethos of expertise, they would be victorious more often than not. There is a difference between the skilled and the powerful. In order to hold any real power, you need authority and prestige. This is only achieved through ambition and self-determination. That is something only the females in this city possess - present company excluded.
"When Zaknafein became the weapon master of your house, he joined an already over-crowded field of potentially powerful males. If there was but one, it would have been over-crowded. Dantrag, Uthengental, and your father were the three greatest weapon masters the city had ever seen, and they were all in their prime at the same time. If one of them had decided to take the initiative and remove the competition, they would have finally achieved what no male ever had: true power."
Jarlaxle shook his head. "Some might want to group me among them, but all I seek is a comfortable life away from the grind and responsibilities of living within a house and under a matron mother. I do not seek power. I know for a fact that Dantrag and Zaknafein wanted it. No one knows what Uthegental wanted. Dantrag wanted it for pride; Zaknafein wanted it for spite. But they did nothing. For 350 years they lived with the question of who was better, but they did nothing. There was never a hint that they were planning any type of confrontation."
Jarlaxle sighed. "It was too bad. I would have loved to watch it. Instead, despite their confidence in their skill and hatred of their position as second-class males, they were also too conditioned by their matron mothers to rebel against the reality of their stations. Their matrons said kill, and they killed. They said stay, and they did not move. If they had said, 'Crawl up on to this altar and let me sacrifice you to our glorious Spider Queen,' they would have complied and asked if she needed help starting the fire. It was not that they had no will of their own, but their subjection to their matron was greater."
Jarlaxle smiled at his attentive audience. "Then you came along. You breezed through the Academy like no one before you. You passed every test placed before you and killed anything that gave you trouble. It seemed too easy. I don't know why you attacked and killed your father. But you did. I'm guessing it was just to take his place."
Drizzt interrupted. "Zaknafein attacked me. I assume it was the same in this reality. In my world, he accused me of murdering an elf child during a surface raid. He attacked me, but before either of us killed the other, I declared that the elf child still lived. I'm guessing it did not go like that here."
Jarlaxle shook his head. "Not quite. The elf child is cold and long dead, I assure you. As is Zaknafein. The great weapon masters before you had remained dormant for over 350 years, allowing their matrons to call the shots. You waited less than thirty days. On perhaps the most important night in this city's history, four prominent drow died and the power balance shifted dramatically.
"Not many know that all four were killed on the same night. Even less know that they were all killed by the same person. And no one knows how. I almost wish you were not who you say you are, because I would love to know how you did it."
"Dantrag Baenre, Matron Baenre, Uthegental, and Matron Mez Barris," Drizzt said calmly, the pieces of the puzzle slowly falling into place.
"You have been doing your research," Jarlaxle appraised him.
"I don't suppose you now how I did it?" Drizzt asked as curious as anyone.
"Like I said," Jarlaxle responded, "I wish I knew. Rumors abounded as to what had happened. The most common is that the two matron mothers finally decided to let their prized males fight it out. Dantrag killed Uthegental, Mez Barris killed Dantrag, Baenre killed Mez Barris, and then Triel Baenre killed her mother."
"And you didn't believe this story?" Drizzt asked.
"No," he replied. "I have my reasons. The biggest of which is that both Matron Triel and Matron Kwinsta, Mez Barris' eldest daughter, came to me to find out who the killer was. That meant the killer was not from either house."
"And you figured out it was me because . . ." Drizzt led on.
"Where did you get that sword?" Jarlaxle asked.
Drizzt unsheathed Khazid'hea carefully and held the sentient blade aloft. He had been right. He did wear the sword for a better reason than to brag about killing Dantrag. He was bragging that he had killed Matron Baenre as well. Only those who knew they had died at the same time would understand his boast, but they were the only ones that mattered anyway. After last night, he wondered if more people would figure it out.
As he held the sword up, he noticed his magical earrings protected his mind from prying to such an extent that the sword's yearnings and pleadings were barely more than a whisper, easily ignored. He did not hear the sword, but as he looked at the Baenre emblem that was still very visible on the pommel, a familiar sensation went through him. He thought about it briefly and put the sword back.
"You never claimed responsibility," Jarlaxle said, "but the way you wear it with the Baenre emblem still in place alongside your two scimitars, it is obviously just for show. Plus those two sun gems on your piwafwi look very similar to a pair that Uthegental was known to wear."
Drizzt looked down at the gems in question, suddenly realizing why, despite his bulk, he was able to move so fluidly. Uthegental had been a monster of a drow, yet his style of fighting was as fluid as any other male in the city, if not more. Drizzt had pillaged their bodies and then displayed those items prominently on his person to let everyone know, or at least those who cared to find out, who had been responsible.
"Few know the truth. I imagine Matron Malice does, and both matron mothers of the first two houses. Beyond them, and anyone one they've told, everything else is just rumors."
"And they allowed my house to continue to exist?"
Jarlaxle laughed. "Actually, Matron Kwinsta was too scared of what you might do to her, if she leveled the charge against you, so she played along with the rumors and accused the first house of the act. Since the rumors claimed that Dantrag killed Uthengental and Baenre had killed Mez Barris, Matron Kwinsta claimed that it was an unlawful attack on her house. I'm sure you know that when two houses go against each other, one needs to totally wipe out the other. This did not happen, but with Matron Triel now at the head of the counsel, she claimed that House Del'Armgo had initiated the conflict and their house should be eliminated. They went to war, and there is no more House Del'Armgo."
"Moving my house into seventh," Drizzt said.
"Yes," Jarlaxle agreed. "And then during the time of troubles, House Oblodra, with their unaffected psionic powers, took momentary control of the city. They took advantage of the weakened first house, and would have taken over for good had Lloth herself not called down judgment upon them.
"The five houses that remain below yours are not worthy to hold the positions. Everyone knows which house is the strongest and which Lloth smiles down upon the most. House Baenre might have your house outnumbered, in fighters and priestesses, but no one believes that will matter. And everyone knows why your house is so powerful. If this were not a matriarchal society, you would be king."
What Jarlaxle now said, Drizzt already understood, but he allowed the mercenary to go on anyway. "You walk within the city as if you own it. Noble males prefer to stay within their houses for safety, but you are not so inclined. You go where you wish, and people avoid you. You have personally been responsible for the destruction of several lowly houses that offended you. Matron Malice no longer gives you orders and, from what I've heard, listens to you for advice. There is nothing you are not capable of doing. As a male, you have finally achieved power. You have no more rivals, and the only matron mother powerful enough to attack you, gave birth to you."
Drizzt stood from his chair and resumed pacing. He finally had a plan. "I am going to attack House Baenre," he said carefully. "I despise this city and wish to leave it in ruins before I return to my real life. I have told Matron Malice that I will eliminate the first house for her and she can claim the title of first Matron Mother of the city. I imagine the houses beneath us will object. We will go to war, and I will step aside. I'll let you sort out the mess."
Jarlaxle was speechless. Why was Drizzt telling him this? Drizzt seemed to read his mind. "This is valuable information I am giving you. In return, I want you to return me to my reality. I know you have many mages and magics at your disposal. Discovering what has happened to me, who has done it, and how to undo it should not be so difficult."
"But perhaps I like this new and improved Drizzt Do'Urden," Jarlaxle said.
"You won't like me very much if you do not do as I say," Drizzt said, slipping easily back into the role of the vengeful drow. "I will return tonight with the particulars of the attack, and you shall have obtained a means for my return. The following day the attack will take place and you shall return me to the reality in which I belong."
Jarlaxle did not respond right away, trying to think a few things out. Why was Drizzt going to tell him the particular's of the attack? What made him trust that Jarlaxle would not just arrange to have him sent to a hell dimension? "I will see what I can do," Jarlaxle replied.
Drizzt nodded and turned to leave. The portal was still not there, but Jarlaxle quickly reopened it. Drizzt left. Several moments after the Do'Urden had gone, Berg'inyon Baenre stepped out of an invisible pocket-plane, from which he had watched the entire meeting.
"What did you think of that?" Jarlaxle asked. The mercenary had heard Drizzt in the tunnel just outside the portal when he had threatened his guard. Jarlaxle had not recognized the voice, but knew it had to be someone important. He had opened the pocket-plane for Berg'inyon to hide.
"I think I will want to be back here tonight when the attack against my house is outlined," he said. He slowly played with his house's emblem as he formed a plan. He knew none of his sister liked him, but they might allow him to stay within the house as weapon master if he aided them in defeating Drizzt and Triel at the same time. "It appears there might be a way for me to regain favor in my house once again."
Jarlaxle nodded, but he could not help but think that something much bigger was going on.
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