Don't go to Sleep
by Iliana Maura
Note: This is it, folks. I'm finally done. Many thanks to everyone who has reviewed, and to everyone who had patience with me while I avoided updating for months on end.
Epilogue : L'elen
Jarlaxle allowed himself a sigh. "Lady Alustrial," he said, trying to keep his patience, "We have been over this before, and you agreed."
"I've been thinking," Alustrial countered; to Jarlaxle's ears she sounded torn, and he didn't think it would take much to sway her. Still, it frustrated him, and his patience ran short these days.
"Perhaps," she continued. "Ivellios Amanodel had the right idea. The drow are an evil race; no one would weep if they were to disappear."
"If they were to die, you mean."
Alustrial made no reply.
"They would if Drizzt did," Jarlaxle pressed.
Alustrial raised an eyebrow. "Are all drow like Drizzt?"
"Of course not!" Jarlaxle scoffed. "But some are. Are you willing to kill those that are different for the sake of killing those that are the same?"
The Lady of Silverymoon narrowed her eyes. "You don't believe any of what you're saying," she stated. "So why do you say it?"
Jarlaxle couldn't help but laugh; he tried to hide the pain it caused him. "I don't believe it, that's true," he admitted. "But I wish for neither myself nor my race to die. Is there something wrong with shaping my arguments so that they appeal to you?"
Alustrial settled herself on the edge of Drizzt's bed; the ranger was no longer in it, having already been dosed by Alustrial with the orbb's elghinn cure, and was celebrating his health outside. Jarlaxle was sprawled in a cushioned chair.
"You're right, I suppose," she sighed. "I just wish. . . ." she shook her head sadly.
"That there was a way to sort the different from the same," Jarlaxle finished, smiling slightly to lighten his serious words.
Alustrial gave him an odd look. "Yes."
Jarlaxle reached up to remove his hat, but halfway there his arm tightened; cramps spread through his body, shooting pain that emptied his mind of everything recognizably sane. It seemed to last for and eternity, during which he was aware of attempting to curl into a ball, as though that would in some way ease his pain.
After an undefinable length of time, he became aware of a whimpering noise; a few moments later he realized he was the one making them. There was a touch on his body, a sensation so different from the pain that he clung to it like a lifeline, using it to hang on to his sanity.
Something brushed against his lips. Focusing on that feeling, he realized someone was holding a cup to his mouth, and urging him to drink. His survival instincts kicked in, and he pushed away from the vessel. That small movement drove him deeper into his pain, until something--he had no idea what--pulled him out again.
Trembling and gasping, he found himself looking into the concerned face of Lady Alustrial. Somehow he had fallen to the floor, with his back pressed against the legs of the chair and his knees drawn up against his chest. Alustrial knelt beside him, holding a small glass cup.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
A slightly wild laugh burst from Jarlaxle lips. When it had subsided, he managed to gasp out, "No."
Alustrial offered the glass to him. "Here," she said. "It's the cure for the Spider's Bane." Gratefully, Jarlaxle reached out a trembling hand, but could barely hold the cup; Alustrial was forced to wrap her fingers around his. The liquid was perfectly clear, and poured sweet and cool down his throat.
After a moment, his body ceased trembling, and he was able to sit up. "Thank you," he murmured; he could feel an embarrassed flush spread across his face, and hoped his dark skin would hide the color. When was the last time he had been so helpless?
His silent question was meant to be rhetorical, but his mind answered anyway. With Zak, his traitorous brain supplied.
Jarlaxle pushed aside the thought and heaved himself to his feet. The room twirled drunkenly around him, and he staggered. Alustrial caught his arm and supported him until his surroundings stabilized.
"Thank you," he mumbled again, straightening himself and rearranging his hat and vest. Silence stretched between them, and the drow grasped at something to say; nothing came to his mind.
"I see," Alustrial said at last, very softly. Her face and voice indicated she had been following a personal train of thought. From a fold in her cream-colored robes she produced a vial the size of Jarlaxle's clenched fist, and a folded sheet of parchment. She handed both to the drow.
"Here," she said simply. "In the flask is more of the cure, and the parchment contains directions on how to reproduce it. I will ask," she added in a more severe tone, "that you do distribute this to everyone, and that you charge nothing for it; it would be unfair to allow only the rich to have access."
A grin spread across Jarlaxle's dark face. "But," he protested laughingly. "Doing so would allow more drow to die, would it not? And is that not what you wanted?"
Alustrial frowned, but after a moment her expression lightened and she smiled. "Take care, Jarlaxle of Menzoberranzan." She turned to leave, but the drow stopped her.
"Wait," he said. "Your payment."
She shook her head, her silver mane shimmering in the candlelight. "There's no need for that. Drizzt is safe, and that is payment enough."
Jarlaxle paused, studying her. Normally he would not argue if someone refused his payment--though he could think of few who would. And yet...
"At least accept this." The drow dropped the flask and parchment into his belt pouch, and removed another item from within. He held it out to the Lady of Silverymoon.
She stretched out her hand and he dropped it into her palm: a heavy ruby, flawless and perfectly cut, the length of her forefinger and width of her pinky's length. It glowed in the muted light of the room.
She immediately tried to hand it back, but Jarlaxle refused. "It's no ordinary gem," he explained. "If at any time you need the aid of me or Bregan D'aerthe, simply use that; I will get the message."
Unsure of what to say, Alustrial looked at the massive ruby in her palm for a few moments. When she looked up, the mercenary was gone.
Drizzt heard the dwarf and halfling long before Catti-brie did, and Guenwhyvar long before him. The three sat on the sun-warmed rocks of Fourthspeak, watching the sun sink lower in the west. Behind them, Bruenor and Regis scrambled up the steep path.
Panting, Regis leaned against Catti-brie's boulder. "It's beautiful," he gasped.
No one answered; there was no need to. A peace settled over the five of them, something that went far beyond words. Regis and Bruenor perched themselves on their own rocks.
"I find it ironic," Drizzt said eventually, "That my life was saved by a drow who would seem undoubtedly evil--and yet he did so without any motive besides good intentions."
There was a long pause after his comment, the Companions soaking up both his words and the beauty of the view. The sun, dipping low over the horizon, had taken refuge behind a shield of clouds, keeping his direct rays out of the Companion's eyes, but nonetheless painting the landscape below them with crimsons, corals, and shades of rose. The tip of each tree was highlighted by a kiss of pure gold, as was the top of the half-finished Hengorot, in Settlestone below. The clouds lingered overhead, dyed with vibrant shades that grew gradually cooler, until they disappeared into the deep blue of the eastern horizon, where the first bold stars were visible.
"Somehow. . ." Catti-brie paused, then began again. "Somehow, I don't think Jarlaxle is truly evil, even though he may act that way. He is certainly not good, but his actions have proved he is very much unlike the rest of his people."
She half-expected a gruff disagreement from Bruenor, but none came; it seemed as though he agreed with her.
"And how ironic," Regis commented, "that while Jarlaxle the "evil" drow did good, Ivellios the "good" elf caused evil.
There was pain in Catti-brie's voice when she spoke again. "I don't think he meant to do evil," she whispered, her voice barely audible. "The attack on his family, and spending the rest of his life with that illness--he must have been insane. But he thought he was doing the right thing."
"Yes," Drizzt asked rhetorically, "but does that mean he really did do the right thing, simply because of his intentions? And did Jarlaxle, not necessarily meaning well, do well nonetheless? Or was it evil, simply because that was what was in his mind?"
Darkness fell like a shroud around them, slowly muting the sunset until all that was left to be seen was the moon, a flaming icy crescent, and the stars, burning bravely around her.
Jarlaxle left the comfortable darkness of the cave and stepped out into the last dying light of the sun. Relatively dim as that light was, most of his kin would have been blinded by it. The mercenary, protected by one of the many enchantment on his hat, was immune.
He sat gingerly on one of the nearby rocks, and slowly pulled his wide-brimmed hat from his head.
Pain hammered at the back of eyes, and he instinctively snapped his eyelids shut. Light, tinted red through his skin, reached his eyes, but it was not as painful and he was able to stand it.
The light had lessened considerably when he was finally able to open his eyes again, but it still stung terribly. Nonetheless, he forced himself to keep the open, and he forced himself to remember.
Years ago, he and Zak had stood beside a similar cave, on a similar mountain, and watched the sun rise. It was one of the last memories Jarlaxle had of his friend--after that time, business had kept them apart, and when it brought them together, the situation was often tense.
Tears trickled down the drow's face, and he knew not all of them were from the sun. What had brought all of these thoughts of Zak to the surface? It couldn't have been Minet's taunt--he had endured far worse things said about Zak, and even managed to work professionally with Matron Malice, Zak's killer. Was it spending so much time with Drizzt, who looked so much like his father? But Jarlaxle had seen Drizzt before.
Maybe he would never know, the mercenary thought sadly. He would certainly never understand why Zak had given up his life for Drizzt. He himself would give up a great many things for someone he felt was valuable enough, but his life was not among them.
Say'evett had given his life for Jarlaxle. That confused the mercenary; his soldiers were loyal, it was true, but he did not think--or expect--any of them would go to such lengths to defend their leader. Most drow would have waited, to see how strong Jarlaxle's opponent was, and joined in only if both necessary and safe.
Say'evett must have either charged straight into the battle, without any thought to his own safety, or else hung back and watched to see if Jarlaxle needed any assistance--in which case he would have known Eliek was beyond his skill.
And Jarlaxle had held Say'evett in his dying moments. He had known Say'evett had orbb's elghinn, and yet he had touched the sick drow anyway. Why?
Wrapped in memories, Jarlaxle allowed his mind to mull over Coss'tul's death. After sorting through the events, he could logically tell himself Coss'tul had wanted to die because he could not stand to live without his friend. But Jarlaxle could not understand the feelings himself; there was no way he would do the same.
Zak, he thought mournfully. You would understand; you would be able to explain it to me. The mercenary remembered the apparition of Zak he had seen while dying, and that, too, he was unable to explain to himself.
A few rays of light slipped below the horizon, but it hardly made a difference to the drow's light traumatized eyes. He closed them, and a few more tears slipped through his pale eyelashes.
He stayed long after the sun had disappeared, and the stars had flickered into existence. It was not until a chill snowflake landed on the bare skin of his head that he finally slipped back underground. Looking over his shoulder, he saw more white flakes--he had no idea what they were--flutter to the ground, where they began to collect.
Low heavy clouds heaved themselves across the night sky's smooth black surface, and poured out their snowy load over the mountains; a blizzard was coming.