"And where are we now?" The drow male wearing a large purple wide-brimmed hat plumed with huge feathers looked avidly around the wide corridors of the stone building.
One of his companions, a beautiful female drow wearing embroidered blue robes and a cloak with a white dragon motif, grabbed hold of his gloved hand and dragged him on. "Warrior school. We are not really supposed to be here...but I thought I would go and check on Teiwaz before his wedding...since I may or may not be here in Spring. I knew him once."
A large wolf trotted placidly next to the female, less inclined to try to stop and gawk like the drow male.
"Kel, can you try and find him? I believe I am lost," the female said finally with a sigh, as they turned down yet another corridor.
"Winter? Lost?" the male raised an eyebrow in mock disbelief.
"Shut up, Jarlaxle." Winter snapped.
The wolf looked around for a moment, then trotted off confidently down another corridor. Winter dragged Jarlaxle along, especially past some of the stranger exhibits that were occasionally found mounted at the walls.
The wolf stopped before an arch, sensing that its companions were no longer following. Winter was pulling Jarlaxle away from another exhibit. "Jarlaxle! By Morikan, I swear you are doing this just to annoy me."
"Doing what?" Jarlaxle asked innocently, but allowed himself to be led.
Several screams cut through the relative silence of the guild, and Winter let go of Jarlaxle and stepped quickly through the arch, the wolf following her.
She sighed. In the large chamber, about thirty students and others were watching some sort of moving picture in a large screen embedded in the wall, just to her right. Several of the group squealed when she appeared, then collapsed into rather hysterical laughter.
A human girl and a gold elf got off their seat on one of the many jousting platforms and picked their way carefully over to Winter.
"Didn't think you'd be here for the Festival of the Past," the handsome gold elf said with a happy smile, and held out his hand.
Winter shook it. "I'm not here for it, Teiwaz," she smiled. "And this is?"
"Oh. This is Rae." Teiwaz fondly put an arm around the human girl's shoulders and hugged her.
"Just like you to forget about me," Rae smiled. It was quite obvious that the two of them were very much in love.
"And these are?" Teiwaz raised an eyebrow at Winter's companions. Jarlaxle, standing at Winter's side, was attempting to watch the moving picture, but she kept a firm hand on his arm.
"Jarlaxle," Winter nodded at him, "And this is Kel, who is much more well-behaved."
"Hey." Jarlaxle protested. "What is this..." He made a gesture at the screen. His voice was slightly distorted – under some sort of translation spell.
"Oh, it's something from my world Morikan allowed us to import over," Rae said helpfully. "Though I really think we should not have watched it so late at night...it's called a movie. The Exorcist."
"Winter." A large reptilian, two-legged creature uncurled itself from the crowd and stepped delicately over. Winter smiled and affectionately patted the creature's shoulder.
"Has Zaknafein been treating you well, Pyrikkan?"
Pyrikkan snorted. "Define 'well'." It turned back and glanced at the screen when some more shrieks erupted from the audience. "Thank you, Rae. I believe quite a few of us will now have nightmares for a while."
Rae stuck out her tongue at it.
"Where is Zaknafein?" Jarlaxle asked curiously.
"Not here. He is the only one who got 'bored' by the movie, I believe the word is." Pyrikkan said dryly. "He may be anywhere, but I would think wandering around here somewhere. Are you the wielder of Crenshinibon?" It peered at Jarlaxle.
Jarlaxle patted a crystal shard strapped to his belt.
"Ah." The Saur said vaguely, then returned to its seat.
Jarlaxle raised an eyebrow.
"Saur are like that," Winter smiled. "Even if they look so fierce."
"They can be fierce," Rae pointed out. "Have you seen Pyrikkan fight before?"
"Without magic? Yes." Winter nodded. "Enjoy the movie."
Dismissal, but Teiwaz and Rae smiled in concert, bowed slightly, then picked their way back to their seats and curled up together.
"Nexus pairing," Winter explained, then made as if to leave. The wolf was watching the screen with interest.
"Winter?" the speaker, a tall human male dressed in rich, robed clothing of various shades of white approached. He had very light-colored hair, and his eyes were the oddest of all – all black, with specks of white like stars in a night sky.
Winter took one look and bowed.
The human chuckled. "No need for that. Are you here for the movie?"
Winter straightened, and swayed slightly. Immediately, Jarlaxle put a steadying hand around her waist. "Not really. Mostly for reporting. Sir."
"Who is this?" Jarlaxle frowned at the newcomer.
"My name is Morikan," the human smiled. "Or rather, that is what most call me. My real name is a little long. And you are Jarlaxle. I see...would you warrant your mission successful then, Winter?"
"You told me to observe and judge." Winter said. "I have."
"Report to Tauron later," Morikan nodded. "The information should belong in a book more than on some desk. Would you return to Sanctuary now, Winter?"
"And what would I do here?" Winter asked, the tone of her voice showing that she had asked this question of herself several times.
"You could be attached to another section," Morikan shrugged. "There are many available. The one to the Sword Hall is of age for his own quest – you could stay here. Zaknafein prefers you."
"Zaknafein perversely likes people who can fight him well," Winter said dryly. "Thank you, Morikan – but I would rather continue observing for a while."
"You do that very well," Jarlaxle said slyly.
Winter shushed him. Morikan, on the other hand, looked disgustingly pleased, as if this had been what he had expected all along.
"Do you know where Zaknafein is?" she finally asked.
"I know where everyone is," Morikan shrugged, a trademark gesture. "You have the means to find him." He nodded courteously at the wolf. "Drizzt is here as well...though I did believe I mentioned some sort of rule about bringing in outsiders..."
"Veldrin and Ssussun were grounded by Rael," Winter replied innocently. "I owed them something, and this place is the only place Rael would allow them to go...so I took them along. I take it they found Drizzt?"
"With astonishing speed," Morikan said wryly. "Zaknafein thinks it is amusing, but I trust you would return those two to their parents after this. I do not wish them to be loose in Sanctuary."
"Only natural," Winter said, vaguely.
"See that you will." Morikan said firmly. "I would count your...quest complete. You would get your evaluation eventually...but now I suggest you enjoy the Festival." He nodded at them, then returned to the shadows.
"Now, for Zaknafein." Winter grinned at Kel, who shrugged a wolf's shrug, and padded out of the door.
They found Zaknafein in one of the large indoor squares in the guild, for sparring, reading, or sleeping on one of the many large heaped pillows. The drow sword master was – oddly – sleeping, sprawled over a large number of cushions.
Winter sighed, and drew Irr'liancrea. She lunged forward, and thrust with the sword...
Zaknafein's breathing changed note, and he caught the blade between his palms just before it entered his chest. "Wha..." he opened his eyes, then sighed deeply. "First my son, then two succubi. Can you not let me sleep?"
"You don't need to sleep, Zaknafein," Winter said dryly, sheathing Irr'liancrea. Zaknafein glanced at Jarlaxle, then settled back into the cushions.
"Go away," he said flatly, and closed his eyes again.
Jarlaxle began to chuckle. "That's Zaknafein, all right."
"Who did you think I was, Malice?" Zaknafein snapped. "Can you not understand me? Or is that translation spell awry again? Go away."
"Can I try now?" Jarlaxle twisted his wrist, then suddenly seemed to be holding five throwing knives.
"You might make a mess of the cushions, and you won't hit him anyway," Winter smiled, sitting down near Zaknafein. The wolf snuggled into several pillows with a sound of contentment.
Jarlaxle shook his head, but sheathed his knives, then sat down next to Winter and put both arms around her waist, then kissed her neck. Winter murmured something half-heartedly, then reached for him and kissed the sides of his mouth.
Zaknafein's acid voice cut in. "If the two of you are going to continue, the guest rooms are just down the corridor. Morikan. Is peace too much to ask for?"
"How are you?" Jarlaxle smiled.
Zaknafein did not even bother to open his eyes. "Fine. Now have the decency to go away. Oh yes. And the...twins were interested in the trick you played with Reima's lance."
"Hmm? Oh, I left it with no other choice other than to enter the lance, then as he was trying to return from the Grey Dimension I broke his only way out. I confess I did not expect Crenshinibon to help."
"I did not expect you to try and lock him in the lance...it was just opportunity," Jarlaxle admitted.
"Do not tell me, tell them," Zaknafein said irritably. "However you may have to wait until they have finished amusing themselves on my son."
"They may try it on you later," Winter warned with a wicked smile.
"Let them try," Zaknafein turned his back on them.
The wolf made a sound very much like a snicker.
"Anything else you want to do?" Jarlaxle murmured at Winter.
"Not really." Winter smiled slowly.
"He did mention...guest rooms." Jarlaxle kissed her forehead.
Zaknafein put a pillow over his head pointedly.
"Yes he did. Do you think we should look it up?" Winter chuckled.
The wolf watched them leave, thought better of following them, and peered at Zaknafein, who carefully rolled over, shook his head, then fell asleep again. After some thought, the wolf decided to follow his example.
The author sits back in her revolving chair and folds her arms in satisfaction. "There!"
Zaknafein puts his hands on the computer table and glances at the screen. "Another story written to slander me."
"Slander? I thought I was being rather accurate." The author snickers.
"What you said about my birth is not true..." Zaknafein pointed out.
"Well, it is purely speculation, since you don't exist anyway." The author shrugs.
"If I do not exist, then neither do you."
"Well, sometimes I wonder about that."
Zaknafein sniffed in contempt. "And as to your ideas of the drow tongue..."
"My ideas? You were the one who translated." The author accused.
"Some of those words do not exist in the language," Zaknafein explained, "And your attitude of 'just add those three letters and it'd be ok' is simply too complacent to be true."
"I'm not writing a dictionary," the author retorted.
"You're writing a 'fanfiction'." Zaknafein rolled the word in his mouth with distaste.
"Yes I am," The author said dryly. "Any issues with it?"
"What is your fascination with Jarlaxle this time?"
"None of your business," the author smirked. "Well then, nice to see I finished this before Servant of the Shard was released here."
"Now we can see how better Salvatore writes than you." Zaknafein said acidly.
"I'm hurt." The author pouts.
"Good." Zaknafein said heartlessly. "Now, as to your concept of all angelic things..."
"So I'm a cynic," The author said defensively.
"All of them either are evil and end up dying, or both. That is not cynical. That is..."
"I get your point," The author said hurriedly. "Can we change the subject now?"
"Very well," Zaknafein relents. "What are you planning to write next?"
"I had a strange idea the other day..."
"...not surprising..." Zaknafein murmured under his breath.
"I thought I'd take the CD Supernatural by Santana and then write little stories based on every song title. Like 'Smooth'." The author grins, a little nervously.
Zaknafein puts a hand on the author's forehead with mock worry.
"I'm not feverish!" she bats his hand away. "Maybe I should have chosen Drizzt for a helper."
"Oh?" Zaknafein raised an eyebrow.
"True. He'd probably get apoplexy fairly early... oh dear. It's so hard to find good help nowadays." The author sulked.
"How childish." Zaknafein snorted. "Now that you've finished your...'fanfiction', you owe me a drink."
"Ah, right. Go downstairs and help yourself. My parents keep their wine somewhere in the back."
Zaknafein bowed slightly and headed out of the door.
The author smiled happily at her computer, then frowned and leaped out of the door after the elf. "Not all of it!"