|The Banality of Evil
Author: el Jota PM
A drow orphan of unknown heritage, the scheming mind of Menzoberranzan's consummate opportunist, and the inexorable tugs of fate. The creation of a monster more real than any had thought possible.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Jarlaxle & Valas H. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 4,057 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 4 - Published: 12-28-08 - id: 4750960
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Valas Hune slinked adroitly through the crowded throngs of people in Menzoberranzan's bazaar. As he moved along, Valas thought back and remembered his conversation with Jarlaxle, even as his eyes probed the marketplace for pickpockets and other nuisances.
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Valas walked into an extravagantly adorned but simply designed stone chamber to see the man he who had invited him. An eye-patch concealed his left eye and his face was hidden under a wide-brimmed hat with a large feather extending from it. He sat slouched nonchalantly in a chair with his feet propped up on a desk, which separated him from the newest entrant. Valas waited in silence, his eyes scanning the room before coming to rest on its occupant. He thought it strange that this other drow could be so relaxed in front of a drow he did not know, even though Valas was sure a man like Jarlaxle had numerous contingencies for anything and everything.
Jarlaxle tilted his hat back and arched his neck ever so slightly to gaze upon the lithe drow. He uncrossed and re-crossed his legs, causing his bell-adorned boots to jingle feverishly.
"Valas Hune, please take a seat," he said, gesturing casually to a chair on Valas' side of the desk. "Would you care for something? Wine, perhaps?" he asked, reaching over to the desk a grasping a wand. Valas tensed for a second, his hands moving marginally closer to the weapons he had been allowed to carry into this meeting. Jarlaxle cocked one eyebrow at this but simply waved the wand, conjuring a glass of wine into existence.
"Oh, only one? I guess its business before pleasure then?"
"I prefer to remain standing," the smaller drow quipped, obviously valuing his readiness over potentially offending his host, as Jarlaxle brought the wine glass to his nose and inhaled deeply, "and my business is my pleasure."
"It is good to hear that," Jarlaxle responded, absentmindedly spinning the wine as he rose to his feet. "You see, I understand you have just come to crossroads," he began, and Valas stiffened ever so slightly. "I can offer you a way out. Bregan D'aerthe could use an individual your skills, and I have something specific in mind. All I am asking is one favor, and then you can extricate yourself from the matriarchy, as much as feasibly possible, at any rate. Bregan D'aerthe takes care of her own. What do you say?"
"Tell me about this task…" Valas heard the words leave his mouth and was only slightly surprised by how readily they sprung forth from his tongue. But then again, if anyone could deliver him from his current situation, it would be Jarlaxle.
"I understand that you have some degree of experience with the surface…"
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Valas had almost picked his way halfway through the entirety of the marketplace when something caught his eye. A diminutive drow hand, so tiny the scout had to blink to make it was real, was probing the purse of a duergar trader who was negotiating with a drow priestess over the value of a vest of mithral chainmail.
The tiny hand disappeared, and Valas saw a drow child, perhaps no older than five years old, duck in between the manacled legs of a hobgoblin slave being yanked around by either its new master or someone looking to be rid of its service, perhaps both Valas mused. The boy, Valas assumed, since females were usually too prized to end up on the streets so early, was clothed only in a tattered loincloth.
The tiny drow's head pivoted actively, causing the child's long, silky silver hair to splay out behind him. He looked toward Valas and their eyes locked. Valas stared into the younger drow's eyes and was reminded him of the surface. The subtle blending of crimson and orange he saw recalled memories of the painful intensity of the overworld's sunset. Their eyes remained locked even as one of the child's hands snuck mechanically into the purse of passing stranger and snared a coin or two from an unsecured pouch. Valas saw a small emerald nestled firmly in the tiny first of the other hand, which hung limply at the child's side. The duergar's spoils, Valas thought to himself. As they continued their standoff amid the bustling marketplace the child's eyes moved down Valas' form to the various magical trinkets that studded his vestments.
Valas took a small step back as a priestess marched purposefully through the space he had just been occupying, and when he looked back for the child the space had been vacated. Valas shrugged inwardly and moved forward again, once again eager to reconnoiter with his prospective employer.
Practically at the end of the market, he saw the thief again, pilfering something from an alchemical stall. Valas marveled at the ease with which this child, who should by all rights be dead, navigated the marketplace. Mentally admonishing himself for losing focus so readily, Valas redoubled his pace to make up for the dawdling he had done up to this point. He was nearly out of the market onto the back alleys of Menzoberranzan when something in the sky caught his eye. He ignored it at first, wanting to make good on his promise to ignored any further distractions, but when he realized that the object's trajectory would intercept his path almost perfectly, he stopped and dived to the side. When it was about two paces off the ground he caught a glimpse of purple in the projectile.
Dwarfblind stone! He closed his eyes and turned to shield himself from the impending flash that would rob him of his darkvision. What happened next surprised him.
Instead of one flash there was two. First came brilliant white, which took his normal vision, then scintillating purple, which took his darkvision.
Valas couldn't see, but he drew both his kukris and from one knee, sliced low and high to deter any attack. He felt something dive past him, perhaps someone staggered from the stone, but when he felt a tug at his vest he knew this attack was directed at him.
He saw a blurry shadow come out of a roll and take off sprinting. Valas reached for a small stone cube in one of his pockets and said the command word, before praying, not to Lolth, but to any deity that might listen, that his aim would be true. Valas cocked his arm back and fired, and when he didn't hear any impact a wry grin crossed his face. You're good, he thought, just not good enough.
Valas activated another talisman and stepped through the dimensional portal it created to extricate himself from the chaos that ensued as a result of the dwarfblind stone. Once his eyes adjusted, probably quicker than most of his kin thanks to his brief stints on the surface, Valas looked back from the alley he had teleported to. He saw several bodies on the ground, some trampled, others lying in expanding pools of blood. Storeowners were brandishing weapons and pointing fingers, and a patrol was moving efficiently toward the site of the melee, breaking up conflicts with swift swords rather than swift words.
Valas gathered his composure and strode slowly down the alley through which his quarry had vanished. Any second now…
An inhuman shriek pierced drowned out the din of combat behind him, and Valas darted across the alley to were the scream originated and grabbed blindly around a corner.
His hand closed on a petite arm and Valas yanked violently, bringing him face to face with the marketplace thief. Suspended in the air at nearly twice his height, the boy flailed in vain at Valas. He tried to swing up onto Valas' arm but the older drow batted the boy's legs down before reversing his movement and slapping the other hard in face.
"Stop," the scout commanded, and after another block and slap the boy complied. "Give it to me."
The suspended child reached into a fold in his loincloth and withdrew the emerald he had stolen. "Don't play coy with me," Valas told him, giving the boy a violent shake. "You know what I'm talking about." The child's hands went back into the loincloth. Valas decided he didn't want to find out what else was hidden in those folds, and so he grabbed the end of rag and yanked, leaving the boy naked and sending a smattering of items over the alley floor. Valas handed the cloth back to the boy and set him on the ground. "If you want me to remove it, don't go anywhere."
The child retied his only article of clothing and Valas saw the stone cube he had thrown stuck the boy's right shoulder blade. The thief reached over his shoulder with his left hand to touch it when Valas' voice stopped him: "Don't." The hand retracted quickly and the orphan turned to study Valas.
Valas surveyed the items on the ground. The emerald, an odd assortment of jewels and gems, a few coins, a drow house insignia, a few tiny vials filled with various liquids or powders, a few smalls black beads, a small dagger, probably only really useful for delivering poison, and a small talisman consisting of a plain stone ringed by a series of small gems. Valas picked up this last item and reaffixed it to his chest, before giving himself a tiny mental pat on the back for not further underestimating the street urchin.
He glanced over at the boy to find him looking anxiously at the rest of the items, perhaps to see what Valas would do with them. "Gather your things," Valas told the child, "and be quick, the cube will have undoubtedly drawn unwanted attention."
The thief hesitated for a moment before seizing only the knife, the beads and vials, a select few of the gems, and finally the house insignia before coming to stand in front of the older rogue, keeping his eyes up but bending over ever so slightly to draw the other's eyes to the cube.
"Later," Valas said, before turning around and going down to one knee. I can't believe I'm doing this. "Get on my back. This will be quicker if I don't have to worry about you keeping up with me." Again the smaller drow hesitated momentarily before jumping up and slinging his tiny arms around Valas' neck. Once he was certain the orphan had a firm hold Valas took off down the alley, disappearing from sight just as the patrol from the market turned into the alley to investigate the cube's high-pitched whine.
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If this intrigues you at all or you like what you read, even a one sentence, "You write well, keep it up," review would be greatly appreciated. For further details on the story, this fan-fiction will focus on the orphan more than Valas or Jarlaxle, but I am going to try to weave this into the accepted canon. Oh, and of course, I do not own the rights to the characters already created in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, notably Jarlaxle, Valas Hune, and Zaknafein Do'Urden.