Summary: Zaknafein is resurrected once more, he escapes to the surface world in search of his beloved son Drizzt. Fortunately he meets a young woman who offers to aid him. Perhaps these two will do more than find his son with the threat of the orcs hanging heavy. Drizzt realizes that his love for Catti-brie is enough for him to ignore his feelings of guilt and finally allow himself happiness.
Disclaimer: Most of these characters belong to RA Salvatore.
A/N: I originally started this story in 2004, and now in 2015, I'm finally returning to it. Roughly, it takes place between the 2nd and 3rd books of The Hunter's Blade trilogy and I plan to incorporate some Mielikki interference/plot from the Companions saga, which I am enjoying. I didn't care for the Never Winter Saga. It made me nauseated. The idea of Drizzt with anyone other than Catti-brie is disgusting. BDN 3/25/15
The priestess of the Spider Queen had just finished the final incantation of the spell. Before her amazed eyes, the form of the summoned warrior emerged. Out of the fire's flames skeleton, muscle, and skin combined to create a replica of the physical body of the sole drow who had the ability to destroy Drizzt Do'Urden.
The matron mother smiled wickedly when the drow warrior's infrared eyes opened. She held her hands out towards him offering his old weapons of choice. The drow warrior accepted the twin blades and tested the swords for balance.
"Zaknafein, I have summoned you here to bring House Mk'latrnu honor to the Spider Queen. You are to destroy the rogue Drizzt Do'Urden," the matron mother explained. Her eyes contained an excited spark as she thought of the glory the rogue's death would bring to her. Surely, Lady Lolth's favor would fall greatly upon her house as well as a promotion into the coveted circle of power in ruling houses of Menzoberranzan. She was aware that this former weapons master was resurrected once before but to unsuccessful results. She was confident that this time, she would prove successful. She was favored of Lady Lolth!
"Where might I find him, matron mother?" Zaknafein bowed his head in submission, narrowing his eyes into slits as he stared at the ground.
"He is upon the surface, near Mithral Hall. He is too dangerous to capture. Too risky," she said thoughtfully. "You are to bring me his head," the matron mother declared, a confident and malicious smile spread across her lips.
Zak's red eyes opened slowly and he graced the matron mother with a faint smile. "How about I deliver your own head?" Swiftly, Zak's blades crossed together and decapitated the evil matron mother. Her daughters, present during the ceremony, began chants to destroy the resurrected warrior, but they were too slow, their reaction dulled by shock.
Zaknafein disappeared from their sight before they could comprehend the notion that he was absent.
Zaknafein moved stealthy down the corridors of Menzoberranzan. He was content with his new body and especially pleased that this time he was in complete possession of his memories. It was obvious that the power hungry matron failed to complete the summoning. He had murdered her before she could claim dominance over his mind, and make him a puppet. He wouldn't suffer that nightmare a second time.
The dark elf began to search out Jarlaxle. If any knew how he might find his son and escape this hellhole, it would be that trickster. He and Jarlaxle were old friends - both found an existence in a society that they both abhorred.
It did not take long for Jarlaxle to find Zak. A couple of his followers from Bregan D'aerthe guided Zak to a private room with Jarlaxle. The former was staring at him hard, apparently not believing his eyes. He even went so far as to remove his eye patch.
"Zak?" The bald mercenary dared to inquire. "How can this be?"
"It would appear that another priestess sought fame in the destruction of my son. He must have been busy to earn so much attention and hatred," Zak replied.
Jarlaxle nodded his head and a great smile broke upon his ebon face. "That he has." He walked around his desk, sat in his chair, and propped his feet up on the desk, crossing his ankles comfortably. "He has been living on the surface for decades and is quite a well known hero. He and his five companions are quite the champions of the surface world."
"Where might I find him?" Zak asked, sidestepping the desk, and knocking Jarlaxle's feet off the desk.
"Why on the surface of course. I would not have believed any left in this city would be foolish enough to go after him after what happened to both his own house and that of House Banre," Jarlaxle continued.
Zak raised a curious white eyebrow. "What do you mean?" Jarlaxle was originally of the first house Banre. As a male drow, he'd been expendable to his Matron Mother Yvonne Baenre. He found a way to make himself nonexpendable.
Jarlaxle waved his hand in dismissal. "It is unimportant. Let me summarize and say that the city is in ruins, because it tried to destroy Drizzt. He and his friends are too strong to be destroyed."
"I am pleased to hear that. Now how might I find him?" Zak pressed.
Jarlaxle reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a map of the Underdark. "You may have this map. It will guide you to a set of caves not far from Mithral Hall where your son and his friends fight a tremendous army."
"What kind of army?" Zak asked as he examined the map. It was at first blank, then Jarlaxle murmured a few words of enchantment and the page filled with ink.
"Thousands of orcs, goblins, and frost giants have allied to conquer the region that Drizzt and his friends defend," Jarlaxle explained.
"I see. I am glad to hear he has put his training to good use." Zak rolled up the map and slid it into the inner pocket of his shirt. "It was good to see you, my friend." Zak turned to leave and begin his journey to the surface. If the map was any indication it would take a few weeks.
"Be wary of the surface. The light is bright and it still aches my eyes. You will need to adjust to it slowly," Jarlaxle warned. He rose from his desk and yanked off his feathered hat and bowed at the waist. "It was good to see you. I am confident our paths will cross again."
Zak replied with a curt nod and then vanished past the streets of Menzoberranzan.
Catti-brie, Wulfgar, Bruenor, and Regis had left the relative safety of Mithral Hall to find their missing dark elf friend. They were all confident that Drizzt was fighting to the North and would be pleased to have some help. The battle was greater than one could imagine. There were so many orcs and their numbers only increased in spite of the great fighting efforts of the children of Bruenor and the dwarves. Catti-brie was walking beside Wulfgar; the two had grown closer in the turmoil. Their friendship had solidified and the barbarian had convinced the adventurous woman to admit her love for Drizzt.
Catti-brie was excited by the possibilities of a life with Drizzt, beyond the one they shared as friends. That very thought served as great motivation to the woman to find her missing love. Life was short, and as she was nearly forty, time was running out for her. She knew that the odds of the friends all surviving this epic battle were slim. That mattered little, for seldom have the odds been in the favor of the companions and yet they have prevailed time and again.
She could only hope that a miracle would present itself. For even if they were to meet up with Drizzt once again and whatever allies he formed, it would not be enough to turn the tide of this battle.
Wulfgar had to smile at the woman walking beside him, seeing her lost in thoughts. He pondered the issue of what sort of miracle the friends would need to be successful. He chuckled quietly to himself as he decided on a perfect solution. Perhaps, if the companions had another Drizzt Do'Urden and Catti-brie amongst their ranks they could prove successful. It seemed with those two working together, all things were possible.
He glanced at the warrior woman beside him once more and sighed. Unfortunately, there were no other champions of good that matched the duo's description. He shifted Aegis-fang upon his shoulder. It mattered not, he would do all in his ability to rid the realm of the evil threat that the orc army presented. Too many years of his life had been wasted in that fiery hell. He would not waste another year floundering helpless when evil knocked on his door.
The half-human, half-elf Lerinif, raised by elves, had left her home in Moonwood a year ago. She was exploring the different cave systems of the realm. Her maps were already rather extensive. The last time she had seen another person had been several weeks and there were rumors of a great battle in the making. Unbelievably, many orcs had allied together. The thought had her laughing, the sound echoing in the empty rock walls. She continued in her research of the caves, not leaving her horse for too long unattended.
This particular cave system was uncomfortably warm. She brushed her damp, dark hair away from her forest green eyes to peer deeper into the darkness. Her torch was almost extinguished. Frustrated by her poor vision in the darkness she turned around to begin the long walk back to the entrance. Had she been a real elf, and not some half-breed, she'd have been able to see easily in the dark. Taunts from her childhood of her mixed heritage echoed in her mind. Children could be cruel - even elves.
No doubt, her horse Shadow was hungry by now. Lerinif's ears caught a slight sound of movement directly behind her. She whirled around to face the presence, but was greeted by only darkness and the uncanny sense that someone was watching her.
"Make yourself known and no harm will come to you," she called out to the unknown entity. She reached for the twin blades, khopesh swords, that she carried across her back and unsheathed them. Their sickle-like blades were quite lethal in battle. "At least I will not harm you intentionally." A wry grin of anticipation spread across her features.
Her eyes widened in surprise. She saw two red glowing eyes, obviously in the infrared spectrum, watching her. Her heart increased its pace when she realized that this was possibly a dreaded drow elf. She had only heard of one that possessed any sense of morality and she was too far from Mitral Hall for this to be the ranger, Drizzt Do'Urden.
She thought back to her limited skills with the drow vocabulary, grateful for the passing interest in learning as many languages as she could when she was younger. "My name is Lerinif. I mean you no harm. Tell me your business," she spoke in the drow language.
The form moved closer, and an ebon skinned elf appeared before her eyes. His stark white hair fell well below his shoulders nearly to his waist and his well-muscled frame could not be taller than 5'10". Looking at his twin swords, she had no doubt which of the two would win a sword fight. He moved with the confident precision of a panther. This man was a warrior, of that there was no doubt. She was no slacker in the art of swordsmanship, but this drow obviously fought in life or death matches - not friendly spars and routine prowls for wayward goblins.
She sheathed her khopesh swords across her back
The dark elf eyed her curiously. "I am Zaknafein," he answered, not bothering with a surname as he now had none. He approached her cautiously, sheathing both his blades as he could easily withdraw them again. His eyes lingered at her waist, looking for a torturous whip like all the female drow had. There was none. He extended a free hand towards her face.
She remained immobile, standing before him like a statute, only her shallow breathing and rapid heart rate giving away her vitality.
He reached for her dark tresses and watched as they slipped through his fingers. He adjusted his eyes from infrared to normal vision to allow the little light of the cave to supply the colors to his color starved pupils. "You are no elf." He looked at her closely as he moved his fingers from her hair and traced the tips of her ears that were round and not pointed.
"I am half-human and half-elf," Lerinif explained.
A look of understanding crossed Zak's features. He withdrew his hand and took several steps back. His eyes did not stray from her green ones - such a strange color to him. "I am seeking my son," Zak answered the previous question.
"Who might that be?" she asked, careful not to give any clues as to her knowledge of a surface living drow. How many wayward drow could there be?
"Drizzt Do'Urden. I was told he is a ranger and can be found near Mithral Hall. I am in need of directions," Zak explained. He was unsure why he so readily trusted her; perhaps it was her non-threatening posture. Or perhaps since the map Jarlaxle had given him had been destroyed by a fire-breathing dragon he'd run into, he didn't have too many other options if he didn't want to wander about lost on the foreign land of the surface.
Suddenly the woman smiled at him. "I know where that is. He is a fine man and a great hero. You should be very proud of him!"
Zak couldn't help but return her smile, his gleaming white teeth sharply contrasted with his ebony skin. "I am indeed. He has a great and noble heart. He succeeded where I could not."
"Why don't you follow me outside of these caves then, I think my horse will be hungry and anxious to leave by now. I could give you a ride to Mithral Hall. I have been meaning to visit the dwarfen kingdom since I left my home with the elves a year ago." Lerinif started walking out of the cave with the drow following close behind.
"You lived with elves?" Zak asked confused, but grateful that this surface creature was speaking drow. He was worried when she first called out to him that he would not be able to communicate.
"For most of my life, after my family was killed by pirates. My father was a human captain and my mother was an elf he'd met in his youth for she was quite the adventurer. A pair of elves, one the sister to my mother that died, raised me as their daughter. I learned several languages while living in Moonwood. It is not far from Mithral Hall. Perhaps you would like to visit it with your son. He has been welcomed there before," Lerinif explained.
"Drizzt has found allies amongst the elves. He truly has left his dark heritage behind," Zak remarked in wonder with another ghost of a smile. "What did you think of him, when you met him?"
Lerinif's smile faded from her face. "Unfortunately, when he was visiting Moonwood my adopted parents and I were visiting a great wizard family, where I was learning various languages. I have yet to meet Drizzt."
"Languages like that of the drow?" Zak asked.
"I did not know that it would actually prove useful to know this language!" Lerinif laughed and Zak found himself chuckling a little.
Lerinif looked back and noticed his smile as he quietly laughed. She walked happily outside of the cave towards her ever-patient horse and began to brush her mane. She turned to ask Zak if he wanted to feed Shadow, but then noticed he wasn't in sight. Concerned, she walked back towards the cave.
She found him standing in shadows, squinting his eyes toward the light of day. She moved to stand beside him and placed her hand upon his form, but quickly removed it, when he flinched sharply. "Sorry about that," she apologized.
Zak looked at her confused. "No, the fault is mine. I am not used to being touched casually." He recalled memories of Matron Malice that he would prefer to forget. He pointed outside the cave. "The light is too much for my sensitive eyes."
Lerinif uttered a quiet, "oh." She looked thoughtful for a few moments and made Zak jump when she suddenly snapped her fingers. "I know what to do." She walked back to her horse and opened the satchel on her side, and pulled out a long cloak. She walked back to Zak holding the cloak in her hands.
"We are about the same in size, you are just a little taller. Wear this, and pull the hood far over your eyes, and keep your sight directed towards the ground," Lerinif instructed. "And maybe you need to close your eyes."
Zak took the offered cloak and placed in upon himself. Then he followed the woman outside of the cave. It was curious how fast a friendship with the woman he had established on his first real venture to the surface. If he had known his acceptance would be this easy, perhaps he would have long left the Underdark in his youth as he had often dreamed. Perhaps the hand of the divine led to this encounter - though surely no divine intervention by Lolth the cruel.
Lerinif grabbed hold of Zak's hand and placed it upon her shoulder, ignoring the brief moment when he flinched at her touch. "Hold on to my shoulder, I will guide you to the horse. She is not hungry and we should start out now. I heard rumors of battle and if they are true, we have not time to waste."
Zak found a warmth in his heart at the trust this woman was bestowing upon him, that he had not earned. The shoulder he held possessed no tension and the thought thrilled him that he may have found a peaceful life upon the surface. He was surprised when Lerinif stopped suddenly. She moved his hand off her shoulder and onto the horse's hide.
"What is this?" Zak asked, as he had never felt a beast of burden with so soft a hide. He was accustomed to the lizards of the Underdark.
"This is Shadow, my horse. Well, I guess our horse now. Get on." Lerinif helped her new dark elf companion rise onto the horse's back. She then used the grace of her own elfish heritage, to swing herself upon Shadow's back in the position in front of him.
Zak was overwhelmed by the different sensations. He was sitting upon a strange beast and unable to see his environment with his eyes. They still burned from the rays they were exposed to earlier. Then this half-elf, half-human female was sitting in front of him, extremely close to him. More unwanted memories of Malice entered his mind.
"Wrap your arms around my waist and lay your head against my back or in my hair. That way you will not fall off and can block more of the light," Lerinif instructed. She busied herself gathering Shadow's reigns and scouting out the best path to take.
Zak complied and wrapped his arms around her slender waist. It mattered little. He opted to bury his face into her dark hair. With the light of day, he was able to notice the great difference between his white hair and her obsidian locks. The smells of this surface world were overwhelming to him, as were the many sounds of life - strange chirping sounds and creatures swooping through the air above them. He took a deep breath and the smell of her hair was especially pleasant compared to the sulfuric smells that had been plaguing him the last leg of his journey. He began to relax.
"It is only about two hours until dark, you can use this time to rest if you like. When night comes, you will find that you can use your eyes to see about you. The moon is a thin sliver tonight, so the starlight will be more pleasant for your eyes to adjust," Lerinif suggested. She assumed the drow's silence related to the entire unknown that the surface represented. She smiled thinking of the story she could tell her friends in Moonwood about meeting a drow.
Zaknafein felt himself smile against her hair before letting sleep claim him. Subconsciously his arms tightened around the woman's waist, unfortunately that made the swords crossed over her back press into his chest uncomfortably. That bothered him little as he felt his arms maintain their fierce grip and let slumber take possession of his exhausted body.