Chapter Five:

Zaknafein sat across from his son, a small fire between them where Innovindil roasted deer meat for their meal. Sitting idly was never Zak's strong point and his fingers were currently drumming a bored cadence across his knee. He looked past his two elf companions in the direction of the Springs where his half-human friend was bathing. A pair of lavender eyes that were watching him suspiciously served as the only obstacle that prevented him from enjoying those waters personally, with a little company of course.

The silence seemed to drag on. The crackling of the fire and Zak's finger dance were the only noises in the entire camp. Finally, Zak asked the question that was plaguing his mind. "Where are your boots, Drizzt?"

If an ebon skinned elf could blush that was what Drizzt would be doing. His head bowed slightly as he examined his bare feet as if they held a sign of explanation. He looked back up at his father and shrugged.

Zak reached beside him and held a deadly blade in each hand as he rose to his feet. In open challenge he twirled those swords in swift, high arches. "Shall I beat the answer from you in a simple contest of skill?"

A wry grin parted Drizzt's lips as he too stood before his father with Twinkle and Icingdeath ready for a clash. "You can try, but you will be disappointed to find that my skills are beyond yours now," Drizzt answered arrogantly, not really believing the words but finding pleasure in provoking his father.

A carefree laugh was the answer as Zak pitched forward, only to have his blades blocked in a perfect parry by Drizzt. Innovindil watched the two dark elves spurring with one another, the perfect mirror image in talent.

Their lean, well-muscled bodies were of the same build and height. Both ebon skinned faces were chiseled perfection, an artistic sculpture's dream. Perfect pearly teeth were bared at one another in grimaces of concentration. The difference lay within the unique shades of their irises and the length of their hair. Zak's white locks fell just shy of his waist while Drizzt's reached to his mid-back.

"Come on son! You fight as if you are still in your first half-century of life! Where is the talent of the great Drizzt Do'Urden?" Zak teased as he narrowly missed being decapitated by his highly skilled son.

"Does the legendary Zaknafein doubt my prowess?" Drizzt replied as he brought up his left arm to guard him against a new attack aimed from that direction. Their two blades clang together loudly, creating sparks as the metal clashed.

"What are you two doing?" A feminine voice interrupted the banter between the two dark elves. Zaknafein immediately sheathed his blades and flashed an angelic smile at his companion with the damp obsidian hair and green eyes twinkling with amusement.

"Nothing much, just making sure he didn't lose his talent and skills through complacency," Zak answered breezily. He walked towards Lerinif and gently led her to sit next to his former position.

Drizzt watched the scene with humor dancing in his eyes. How was he able to live without the older elf? His mere presence brought joy to Drizzt's pained and tormented heart. He offered a small smile when Lerinif looked back up at him for the real answer, not believing Zak's flippant response.

Drizzt shrugged as he sat across from the couple. "It was a minor dispute. He seems to not approve of my wandering the wilderness slaying orcs in my bare feet."

Lerinif laughed at the response before accepting the food that Innovindil began to hand out to the camp. She thanked the female elf in the common tongue before eating the meat.

Zak also took the food offered to him from the Moonwood elf and thanked her roughly using the common tongue. She smiled at him, seemingly pleased that he made the effort to speak in a language she could comprehend.

Innovindil sat beside Drizzt. The four ate in silence. The smell of freshly cooked meat from the deer shot down by an arrow of Drizzt seemed to ease all their weary minds.

"When did you learn archery?" Zak inquired, he really hated silence. He was forced to live in it for too long. Now that he was on the surface he would be damned before he prevented himself from asking anything and everything that was on his mind.

Drizzt grinned and answered using the common tongue. "What self-respecting Ranger wouldn't be a skilled archer?"

Zak chewed thoughtfully as he tried to come up with an answer for that. Instead, a change in topic would work. "When do we seek out your friends?"

Drizzt looked uncomfortable. He reached inside the inner fold of the tunic he wore and fingered the statue of his feline friend. "I'm not sure. It's important that I do my part out here."

Zaknafein sighed inaudibly at the answer. He had a feeling that was what his foolish self-sacrificing son would say. It was what he would have said, so naturally he must have gotten those genes from him. "Drizzt, whether you kill orcs out here or alongside your friends, you are still killing orcs."

"That's right. There are plenty of orcs to kill no matter where you are. What's the difference if you get them out here or if you fight them while reunited with your Catti-brie?" Lerinif added, a slight wistful sigh escaped her as thoughts of a romantic reunion between the ill-fated lovers flashed through her mind.

It was all Zak could do to not roll his eyes at the woman. She was such a romantic, but then, so was he. "She has a point."

Drizzt chewed his dinner thoughtfully. Now that he knew his friends were alive, or at least, were most likely alive, why didn't he venture out to meet them? It would probably be fear. He feared that if he were to see his beloved Catti-brie right now that he would have hope. Hope was a dangerous foe at times of war. Right now, his battle prowess was unparalleled because he held nothing back. If he were to see the love burning within the deep ocean blue eyes of Catti-brie, he would have dreams of making her his wife, and sailing far away from all this war.

But, his ability to fight was needed. He couldn't afford to be selfish, too many would suffer because of such desires.

Zak had kneeled in front of his son, unnoticed, as those lavender eyes had turned introspective. Waving his hand in front of Drizzt's face caused those eyes to focus on him with an annoyed look across his handsome features. "Just making sure you were still with us," Zak answered as he rolled on the balls of his feet to stand up with his gathered momentum.

Drizzt allowed his eyes to search past his father and flicker to the two women in their group before locking with the topaz irises he was so familiar with. "Our place for now is in this battle."

Zak threw his hands in the air at his son's stubbornness. "I can't help you, if you're going to be all noble and stupid," Zak muttered as he walked towards Lerinif and held out his hand to her. She accepted and allowed him to pull her to her feet in front of him. Zak looked over his shoulder at Drizzt who was watching his actions with interest. "I believe we'll turn in for the night. I suggest you rethink your decision," the older drow warned in his subterranean language.

Drizzt and Innovindil watched as Zak and his companion Lerinif settled down together in the pile of blankets and capes that they brought.

Zak grinned over at Drizzt before focusing his attention on his companion. He pulled the thick cape to cover both of their bodies as he held her spooned against him. His arms encircled her waist and he rested his chin on her shoulder and squeezed her close. His relationship with Lerinif had been easy. Perhaps they were both lonely and the fates had brought them across each other's path to bring them comfort in a world of turmoil.

Drizzt watched as his father and his woman companion slipped into an easy slumber. It was quite a touching scene. He faintly observed that Innovindil bid him good night, but he remained silent, attention focused on his father. Zak seemed at ease. The fact that he was able to fall asleep so easily was testimony in itself that he no longer carried the burden of the world on his shoulders. When would Drizzt be able to experience that freedom?

He pulled out Guen's statuette once again, fingers tracing the contours of the piece. "I miss her," he whispered to his oldest friend as he allowed himself to lean against the rocks behind his back and try to find the elusive sleep. A pair of big blue eyes and the glimmer of hope were the only thoughts running in his subconscious as a small smile played upon the corners of his lips.


Jarlaxle was anxious. Thoughts of that woman were running through his mind. He was worried about Zaknafein, but had confidence in the ability of that dark elf to survive. What plagued him was his longing to comfort the woman that Drizzt had abandoned yet again.

This had to have been what - the third? Fourth time? On all previous occasions, he felt he would be endangering her if she came along. Was Drizzt so dense to not realize that her love for him would have her traverse the very depth of hell to save him? She had practically done that those few years ago when she followed him into the bowels of the earth.

Jarlaxle could just make her forget about him.

He shook his head. Who was he kidding, she'd never forget about Drizzt Do'Urden. But, perhaps he could help her get over him. Jarlaxle smiled in satisfaction at that idea, though to be honest he was only interested in Catti-brie because of the devotion she'd shown toward Drizzt. Should she turn that devotion in his direction he knew he would quickly tire of her - just as he so easily tired of everything else.

"What, pray tell, are the thoughts running through that foul little head of yours?" Entreri demanded, as he had been the witness to the drow mercenary's ceaseless pacing. His jeweled dagger twirled with grace through nimble fingers as the human assassin attempted to entertain himself.

Jarlaxle threw a pair of daggers at the human, they both grazed a few millimeters to each side of his face. The assassin remained unfazed as he stared back at the elf blankly, waiting for him to answer the question.

"Not that I need to explain myself to you, but I was simply coming to the realization that we could use a third lead person in our next mission," Jarlaxle replied coolly as he walked past the human to retrieve his daggers that were imbedded in the wall.

"What mission is this?" Entreri asked, watching the elf closely, prepared to deflect the daggers if need be.

"I've decided to join in the fray on the surface," Jarlaxle answered simply. "We need a good archer for the work I have in mind." He noticed the way the assassin narrowed his dark eyes at the comment, their train of thought was strikingly similar too often.

"You can't be serious," Entreri replied softly, his voice a deadly whisper that would scar the hearts of someone who might have heard it in passing in a dark alley.

Jarlaxle was not one to be intimidated. "We will retrieve our newest party member after dinner." The mercenary decided as he hid his daggers somewhere into the folds of his black velvety jacket. The gold and silver trim that adorned the sleeves flashed with each movement he made.

Entreri snorted lightly and folded his arms across his chest. "Unlike you, I haven't forgotten what a hassle it can be to work with that woman. She recklessly endangers those around her with her crazy schemes."

Jarlaxle bellowed a hardy laugh at the statement. He walked towards Entreri and clapped his hand upon the human's shoulder. "Her schemes have kept her alive this long. Besides, I doubt if they can be any more outrageous than my own schemes."

"Just remember what happened to your mother's domed sanctuary to your spider queen of chaos," Entreri reminded.

"I wouldn't forget such a thing. And do not call her my mother. Perhaps you have forgotten, but I have no mother. I am Jarlaxle, I've always been around and always will be as long as there is chaos to gain opportunity from."