The Art of Being Entreri
Chapter 7 Fine Art
Ellen rode into town several hours after dawn, tired and not thinking straight. She had mulled her thoughts over and over concerning Entreri. Right now she was pretty sure she hated him. She had come to him for help, and he had slammed the door so hard in her face that her cheeks were still flushed from crying.
It was her assessment of him that had brought about the change. She had said that he was a good person who had been forced to use his weapons to defend what he believed in. For some reason, this angered him beyond anything she could imagine. Why would someone dislike that kind of compliment? Even if he was what everyone said, a killer without a conscious, he should still be grateful for Ellen's kind words, even if they were not true.
As Ellen dismounted at her stable, she figured she would never understand Entreri's mind or why he did things. He had come to her rescue in the alley when he had no reason to and could get nothing in return. Now, when he had plenty to receive if he succeeded, he turned it down. It was not because he felt the task too dangerous, Ellen thought as she opened the front door to her home. He had told her what he had thought of mages, and it had not been complimentary. It had to be som-
Inside her home sat three City Guards, all of them new recruits. "Welcome home, Ellen."
Before she could berate herself for her sheer stupidity, she needed to escape. Ellen spun around and ran into another guard. The man grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. "Hold on missy, you're not going anywhere. The boss has been waiting for you."
Ellen struggled some, but it was useless. She was not going to break free from the man's iron grasp. As he led her toward the guardhouse a few blocks away, she had plenty of time now to berate herself, and she spared no expense.
Her father and John were waiting for her on the top floor. She stood stunned when she saw her father in a cage. "Father?!"
Jerithon picked his head up from his restless slumber, and his face brightened. "Ellen! Are you okay? Those monsters did not hurt you, did they?" Jerithon cast a hateful glance at the guard that had led Ellen into the room.
Ellen yanked her arm away from the guard, and he released her. "No, Dad, I'm fine." Ellen stepped away from the guard and move toward John. He was propped up in a half-sitting, half-lying position with his broken leg stretched out in front of him. Someone had set, and it was obvious they had done a poor job.
"Ellen," Jerithon started slowly, and his daughter knew what was coming. "I'm sorry about what I said. I did not mean it. It's hard for me to remember that you are not my little girl anymore. Especially now that I know Artemis never did anything wrong, I feel esp-"
"No," Ellen cut in. "Don't apologize for that part of it. Artemis Entreri is just as rotten as you thought, maybe more. He is truly evil."
"Ah," a voice came from the other side of the room. Jerithon and Ellen turned to look back at the door. Quinton standing there with a interested look on his face. The door shut behind him, leaving only him, two guards, and the prisoners and of course Trevor, who was busy eyeing up Ellen. "So you spoke with our friend. And what did he have to say?"
"Nothing important. I hope I never see him again."
Quinton shook his head. "That's too bad. I was kind of hoping he'd try some kind of rescue. You should have been more persuasive. I'm sure a woman of your," he paused as he stared at her and then as he looked toward Trevor, who chuckled lewdly, "stature," he settled with, "could convince a man to do anything."
"He cares nothing for me or anyone else in this city. He cares only for himself and his pocketbook."
"Tsk, tsk," Quinton sighed. "You see I owe him two. Well, actually, I owe him one, Trevor here, as I'm sure you know, owes him the other."
The thief smiled his brown-toothed grin. Ellen engaged him in a staring contest, not willing to back down to the awful man. "If Artemis does come, I hope it is only to kick your ass again."
"We'll see," Trevor said, brandishing his short sword, "we'll see."
* * *
"What am I going to do, Red?"
Entreri had always felt that talking to yourself was a sure sign of insanity. However, talking to a long dead red dragon while surrounded by more riches than in all of Calimport went far beyond simple insanity.
Entreri had his head in his hands as he sat on a chair-shaped pile of coins and gems. He had opened the ivory portal deep inside a cave where he was sure no one would find it. As long as it stayed open, he would be able to return to the cave. If someone happened upon the portal and removed the ivory cylinder from the center, he would be stuck back north of Karenstoch with the unenviable task of tracking down whoever had taken his prized possession.
"Am I destined to become the one I hated most?" he continued. Though the dragon was dead, its huge presence and lingering magical aura made it very easy for Entreri to imagine that he was not alone. "Is that the irony fate has destined for me to live out?"
Entreri got up from his seat and paced in front of the huge maw. "I don't know what I want or even who I am anymore. Riches have never appealed to me much." He stopped and looked over the vast treasure before him. "And that's a shame." He continued walking. "Fame was good back in Calimport when it meant you were respected. Both Drizzt and I demanded respect whenever we walked into any city along the coast. Here, if my fame precedes me, they close the gates or send the City Guards to chase me out."
Entreri stopped his pacing to pick up a particularly large gem that had rolled from the pile when he had stood. He tossed it up and down, staring into its sparkling center as he continued to pace. The twisting and turning angles of the gem made any attempt to focus on it very difficult. "How complicated my life has become!
"I can not live in anonymity now, too many people have seen my skill, and word of my deeds will follow me where ever I go. Nor can I live in the open, for I am persecuted for my abilities. So what am I to do?"
Entreri stopped walking to stare at his conversation partner. "Well? Say something?" Silence. "Stupid dragon," he said, hurling the gem at its face. The gem struck the creature right between the eyes with a "chink." Entreri began to walk away, but paused at the sound. "Chink?" he thought to himself. He picked up another gem and threw it at the dragon. It hit the red scales and made a "click" sound.
Entreri tried a few more and got the same result. It sounded like rocks bouncing off slate, but the first one had a definite metallic ring to it. Intensely curious, the assassin nimbly climbed up on the large maw and examined the area between the huge, and thankfully closed, eyes.
Right where the two brows furrowed together, Entreri could see a metal pommel. "The death blow," Entreri said silently. If this weapon was long enough, the tip of it had probably entered the brain of the huge beast and killed it.
Entreri examined the wound, wondering how he was going to get the weapon out without anything to hold onto. The eyes of the dragon had apparently been squinting in pain when he had died, and now the two brows had the weapon's hilt pinched very tightly.
"That must have been some fight, huh, Red," Entreri said, appreciating the bravery of anyone capable of delivering this blow. "I bet you were mad as hell. You probably-" but Entreri cut himself short and looked up. The light red glow coming off the dragon was not that bright, but Entreri could see a ragged form hanging from a stalagmite high above.
"You squashed him pretty good." Entreri climbed down from the dragon's face and picked up a few large gems. It took three tosses, but on the third, the gem connected with the shadowed form, and the ancient skeleton nearly exploded. The rib cage had been wedged onto the stone spike, but given another 50 years, the skeleton would have decayed far enough to fall on its own.
Entreri jogged over the pile. The bones were all tangled up inside of tattered clothing and rusted armor, but Entreri did notice one thing that seemed to be in perfect condition. He fished the dead man's belt out of the mess and examined the scabbard attached to it. The belt was brittle and flaking away in his hands, but the scabbard seemed brand new.
The magic that came off of it was almost palpable, and Entreri looked back at the metal glint of the pommel between the dragon's eyes. "That must be something special in there," he said. As he walked back to the maw, he shook the scabbard completely loose from the decayed belt and tried to decipher the writing. Most of it was ancient magical script that was unreadable, but on the other side, one calligraphic word stood out clearly: "Cicle."
Entreri tossed the scabbard aside for now and looked at what he needed to do to get the sword. The dragon's rigor mortis was clenching the blade, and Entreri knew that even Wulfgar in a fit of rage would likely not be able to pry it out. Still . . .
Entreri ran around the piles of gold to where he had met Trent and Reichen almost two months ago. The golden battle-axe that Trent had tried to wield was still lying where Entreri had tossed it, and he scooped it up. The assassin walked careful back to the dragon as he examined the edge of the magnificent weapon. "Bruener Battlehammer, eat your heart out," he said under his breath. The razor edge of the blade was immaculate, and Entreri was sure it would do the job.
He climbed back up to his previous perch and steadied his feet. With all his might, he swung down onto the dragon's left eyebrow. The blade sunk in all the way to the bone, and the taunt muscle snapped back into the side of the red's face, exposing part of the huge eye socket. Entreri then went to work on the other brow.
Soon the hilt of the weapon was visible between the slackened scales. Entreri set the axe down gently and grabbed onto the stuck weapon with both hands and tugged hard. After releasing the brow, the blade was not nearly as tight as Entreri had guessed it would be, and he went tumbling backwards off the maw. Only the assassin's dexterity and poise kept him from running himself through as he somersaulted off the dragon.
Entreri sat up after the short, embarrassing trip to look at his find. It was a rapier. The slightly curved blade was a bit longer than most found in use by pirates along the sword coast, but it was far from a long sword.
Entreri twisted it about in a few hasty jabs and cuts and found its balance to be exquisite. Also it was extremely light, and Entreri found he was able to move it almost as quickly as his dagger.
The most distinctive thing about it was its crystal blue blade. Entreri felt a shiver as he looked at it, and as he brought it toward his face for a closer look, he could feel it sucking at his body heat. "A frost blade," Entreri said, his pulse quickening, "Cicle." He brought the weapon just under his chin and spit on it. The saliva crackled and froze instantly, sliding off the blade and shattering on the stone floor like a glass bead.
Entreri knew that if he touched this blade with any moist part of his body, it would stick fast until either Entreri had frozen to death, or he had ripped it free, taking a good portion of skin with it. It only clung to living flesh.
Entreri knew this weapon had to have an extremely powerful enchantment for it to have retained its power while being sheathed inside a red dragon for who knows how many centuries. He carefully slid the weapon into its scabbard and noticed how the leather of the sheath did not grow cold in the slightest. The scabbard contained the powerful weapon completely, probably regenerating it.
As Entreri added this new weapon to his belt, his mind went back to Drizzt. He knew how the drow had finally been accepted into society. He had been placed on Kelvin's Cairn, a mountain cave just outside Bryn Shander. He had been given the responsibility of a protector and a scout, making sure no dangerous predators made their way too close to the town.
By protecting the town from the evil that lived around it, Drizzt was respected and accepted. He was still feared by some, for he was a drow and nothing could change that, but at least he was accepted. Entreri now itched for a fight to try out his new toy, and there was only one open to him.
With a smug look back at the red dragon, Entreri tipped his black hat as he moved toward the glowing portal. "We'll be seeing you, Red. I've got me a mage to kill."
* * *
Garrilport was quiet this night. Like Quinton had predicted, the city was not ready to believe the councilmen's stories of doom and gloom. Those that did were either not of the fighting ilk, or they were just too scared to face a mage who could summon instant death with a flick of his wrist.
Quinton had also made good on his word to hire more men. The City Guard now boasted twice as many men as before, and they patrolled the streets with a purpose. Quinton had also called off his pickpockets and thieves, and most people saw the latter as a result of the former.
The mood was not one of jubilation that the crime was disappearing, because the average citizen understood that the salaries of the City Guards came from their taxes, and if twice as many City Guards were now employed, the money had to come from somewhere.
The guardhouse itself was quiet. Most of the men were either home asleep or out on patrol. Even so, Quinton did not feel completely safe, and his large work force allowed him to retain a dozen men at the guardhouse along with several of his thieves and thugs. Two of the guards stood outside.
The guardhouse was in the center of town, reachable by either the northern half or the southern half. Right now, the two guards were looking north, eyeing a particularly unstable form as it wove from side to side. The beggar was obviously drunk, and as he came within two dozen feet of the guardhouse, he demonstrated as much by throwing up on one of the bushes that lined the entry to the fortress.
"Here now!" one of the guards called out. "Don't do that. Get away with you!"
"Pardon," the man said, "but do you have some change? I feel I need some drink to make it through the night."
The two guards looked at each other and sighed. "You can not beg here. Now get lost before we have to remove you with force."
"No, no," the man started to say, trying to stand up a little straighter under his black cloak, "that won't be necessary, sirs," he continued, slurring every word. "I just want some-" and he passed out, sprawling headlong right in the main walkway to the guardhouse.
"Please," one of the guards said in a tired voice. "Of all the things." He turned to his partner. "Can you give me a hand with this guy?"
The other guard smirked, and they both walked up to the fallen drunk. "What do you want, beggar?" one of them bent to shout at the unconscious man.
"Keys," Entreri replied as he sprang up from the ground, his dagger and short sword thrusting forward. Both weapons slid under the guards' breastplates and doubled them over. Cicle was still strapped to Entreri's side, waiting for later.
The assassin felt the power jolt from his dagger and used the energy rush to heave both men backward onto the steps up to the front door. Entreri's sword had been long enough to puncture several vital organs, and that guard was dead before he could shout out. The other was sucking for breath as he felt his life essence drain from him. Entreri pulled his sword out of his first kill and sliced it across the throat of his soon to be second.
As both men fell dead to the steps, and Entreri dragged them behind the bushes, he sincerely hoped they worked for Quinton and not the former captain. He would have to be cautious of that from now on. He quickly took the guardhouse keys from one of the dead men and stepped out from behind the bushes, sheathing his weapons and moving to the door. As he turned the appropriate key in the lock, he noticed that a few drops of the vegetable soup he had dumped in the bushes earlier had splattered on his boots. "Better than real vomit at least," he said to himself
Two guards were straightening the entryway as Entreri entered. "Hey," one of them shouted as the black-clad assassin calmly stepped into the building, "what are you doing here?"
Entreri paid the man no mind as he turned his back to him to close and lock the door behind him. "I said," the man repeated, pulling his sword as he approached the intruder's back, "what are you doing here?"
Entreri spun about suddenly, Cicle coming out fast and leaving a bluish frost as it cut through the humid air and batted aside the guard's weakly held weapon. "To arms!" the man tried to shout, but Entreri kicked him in the stomach, blasting the wind from his lungs.
The man stumbled backwards, and Entreri leaped to his side and straddled one of his legs behind the man as he poked his dagger at the guard's weapon hand. The man dropped his sword and stepped back, tripping over Entreri's well-positioned leg. His back slammed against the wall, and the assassin was on him in a second.
With the frost blade at his neck and the jeweled dagger pricking the guard's gut, Entreri had the man shaking in fright. "Who do you work for?"
"Quinton," the man said in barely more than a whisper. He figured this man had to be one of the fighters just hired by the new mayor.
"Wrong answer," Entreri said, pulling his rapier across the man's neck. The perfect blade cut through the guard's throat like butter, toppling the man's head to the ground. The blood spurted out only briefly as the frost blade seared the massive wound closed.
Entreri spun to face the second man in the entry, but the terrified guard was watching his former partner's frozen blood shatter on the floor. When he saw that the assassin's attention was now turned on him, he quickly unbuckled his sword and tossed it to the ground. "I serve Captain Irenum."
Entreri could tell it was a lie, but he also saw this man was not worth his time. "Stay here," Entreri said. "If I find out you are lying or that you sounded any type of alarm, you'll spend the last few moments of your life counting stab wounds. Understand?"
The man nodded furiously. Entreri moved into the next room and found it empty. This was the weapon room, and all sorts of bows and swords stood on racks and shelves. There were stairs leading down, but Entreri was sure he needed to go up.
The next room was the mess hall, but this late at night, it held only one man. He was sitting at a table with his back to the door drinking mead. Entreri ran up to him without a sound and placed his dagger snuggly against the man's neck. The guard spit out the alcohol in his mouth and started to rise and reach for his sword, but Entreri applied pressure and the man went rigid.
"Tell me about Captain Irenum?" Entreri asked.
"He's a spineless wretch who does not deserve any place in this guardhouse," the man responded carefully.
"And where can I find him?"
"He's upstairs on the fourth floor with the rest of the captives."
"You've done well," Entreri whispered in his ear. The man sighed deeply and relaxed. Entreri killed him.
Entreri climbed the stairs and paused in front of the next room. Through the closed door he could here the sounds of fighting. He was about to burst in, when he heard voices too. It sounded like someone was giving instructions. Entreri cracked the door and looked into the guardhouse's training room. Three men, none of them City Guards, were busy sparring.
He was about to pass it buy, but he saw the stairs in the far corner and knew he had to pass through this room. The sparring room was not well lit, and Entreri slipped in and closed the door without detection. He saw, though, that he would not be able to get to the stairs without being seen. Instead of trying, he turned is attention to the men in the middle of the room.
"No, no," Parnid said to the other thief, "lead with this leg, not that one. This way you'll be able to snap the attack back without crossing yourself up."
"Let me show him," Entreri said, stepping from the shadows, Cicle in his hand.
Parnid had never seen Entreri before, but he had gotten descriptions from both Trevor and Billy. "Artemis?"
Entreri bowed low. "At your service."
Parnid turned to the other two men in the room. "Take him." Both trainees dropped their practice weapons and picked up real ones. Entreri kept only his magical rapier out and put himself in a classic fencing pose.
As the two men rushed him, Entreri leaped forward and slapped both swords twice in a quick "Z" cut. He then fell back a step, letting the off balance men lunge forward. They both led with the wrong foot. "No, didn't you listen to anything your teacher said," Entreri criticized, and as he batted their thrusts aside, neither was able to pull back in time, and one of them took a stunning blow in the face from Entreri's hilt.
The man went sprawling to the ground. The other thief did not like this derogatory treatment and rushed the assassin. This was not a traditional fencing move, and Entreri had to change his footing quickly. A moment later he had his back up against the wall, and Cicle was locked with the other man's sword.
The thief was taller and stronger than Entreri, and he used these advantages well, pushing hard against the assassin's blocking blade. They held the pose for a few seconds, the thief slowly pushing his weapon toward Entreri's face. "Where's your advice now, stranger?" the thief chuckled.
"Look down," Entreri complied.
The thief did and saw the jeweled dagger stab out towards his gut. As the blade stared to bite into his leather vest he jumped backwards, stumbling as he stepped onto the raised practice mat. He started to charge Entreri again, but stopped and looked down at his blade with interest. Being locked with Cicle for as long as it had been had made the blade very cold. The leather grip on the sword could only insulate it so much.
Entreri leaped from the wall and swung hard at the confused man. the thief held up his sword to block, but the cheap, and now brittle, blade shattered on impact. Sensing movement from the side where the first thief had fallen, Entreri reversed his grip on the rapier, pivoted next to the weaponless man, and stabbed backwards. As the frost blade entered the man's chest, the other thief impaled himself on Entreri's extended dagger, having not expected the assassin to turn about so suddenly.
Entreri held up both men for another second and then retracted his weapons, sending both thieves to the mat, quite dead. Entreri wiped his weapons off as he looked for the third man. At least he wiped his dagger off. All the blood on the rapier had frozen and fallen off as soon as the sword was pulled from its victim. Parnid was nowhere to be found.
* * *
Quinton, Draick, and Reillon were sitting at the table on the top floor discussing their plans while the three captives looked on. Jerithon did not like the fact that they were so open about their intentions with both he and John present. John could obviously not do anything about it. He would be lucky to even walk again. But if Jerithon got out, he would be able to throw a big wrench into their plans. This just confirmed the fact that they were not going to ever let him out.
Ellen was still tending to John, and as of yet, had not been restrained in any way. This total lack of respect for his daughter, made Jerithon mad, but he also realized his daughter could not do anything to seriously jeopardize their plans while she was in here. Besides the three men at the table, Trevor was still in his favorite chair off to the side of the room, treating himself to drink bar in the corner. Also, there were two guards stationed at the door.
That door burst open suddenly, and Parnid came rushing in. Draick stood quickly at the table, pulling his sword halfway. He pushed it back in when he saw who it was, but the worried look on the thief's face kept him standing. "What is it?"
"Artemis is here," Parnid announced.
"What?" Quinton responded. Ellen too was startled. This was the last thing she had expected. "What do you mean he's here?" Quinton continued. "Where?"
"Here," Parnid reiterated, pointing to the floor. "I left him in the sparring room."
"And?" Quinton prompted.
"He butchered two of my men."
Quinton scowled. He turned to Draick. "How many men did you have on the first floor?"
"Five," Draick said, not believing anyone could have made it past all of them.
"How many on the third floor?" Quinton continued.
While Draick tried to count in his head, Parnid spoke up. "I saw three more on the third floor. I told them to follow me." Sure enough, the guards soon filtered into the room.
"Lock that door," Quinton ordered. He turned to Reillon. "And make sure Artemis pays a price when he tried to open it."
The mage smiled as he walked up to the door to do his job. The five guards parted for him, and Parnid moved to the center of the room, wanting nothing to do with the mage's trapped doors.
After three spells, Reillon stepped away from the door, and the guards closed in around it. "Stop!" the mage said. "Do not touch that door." The guards each took a step back.
"I did not want you to trap our side," Quinton said.
"Both sides are hot," Reillon responded. "These spells are ten times as powerful as the one I used on my door back in your home. With the increase in power comes an added risk. Don't worry, Artemis will be quite dead as soon as he touches the door, and then your men will have no problem opening it and cleaning up the mess. I have pra-"
Reillon was cut off by the sound of shattering glass and the sight of Artemis Entreri rolling through one of the many windows that looked out onto the city. Even before the broken glass had stopped dancing around him, the deadly assassin whipped a throwing dagger at the collection of guards by the door.
The five men had been facing the door, waiting patiently for the explosion on the other side that would tell them they could open it. The sound of the glass spun them around, and the sight of the flying dagger made them freeze. The guard in front ducked just in time and sighed as the dagger flew over his head, but as he heard it "thunk" into the trapped door behind him, he swore viciously.
Wave after wave of fire engulfed the five men, and bolts of powerful lightening jumped between them, welding their flexible metal armor into solid pieces. After a few short seconds, the display was over, and the number of Entreri's potential enemies had been reduced by half. Entreri looked at Reillon. "Thanks."
Draick was the first to recover from the dramatic display and pulled his sword to cut Entreri down. Actually, it was John's sword, and it was huge. Instead of pulling his dagger, Entreri paired Cicle with his other short sword, fearing the dagger would not be able to block the huge weapon.
Draick swung the borrowed sword in huge scythe-like attacks, trying to force Entreri back out the window he had just flown through. Entreri actually jumped back to the windowsill, teetering ever so slightly backwards before leaping over the rushing Draick.
The new captain spun about but neglected to swing his weapon as he did and was forced on the defensive. Entreri's weapons picked at Draick's solid armor, finding holes and sending shivers down his spine every time Cicle hit home. Draick kept his big weapon down low to protect his vulnerable legs and quickly realized that if something did not happen fast, he was going to die.
Reillon could see the inevitable ending as well and decided to enter the fight. Entreri had expected this eventually, but when the five energy bolts hit him in the back, it was almost more than he could take. His attacks against Draick slowed slightly as a result, and he began to time a roll away from the guard to catch his breath, when a second wave of energy bolts slammed into him.
This second attack was meant to be a disabling one, and Entreri felt his senses failing and his limbs stiffening. He had lots of experience battling such spells and fought hard against this one. He dropped his short sword and fell to one knee under the effort.
"You are no match for me," Reillon said from behind, and Entreri could sense him casting yet another spell. How was he getting these off so quickly?
Draick too was preparing to end the battle and heaved his heavy sword above his head with both hands. With strength and speed the assassin should not have possessed at this point in the battle, his free hand reached into his cloak and pulled his jeweled dagger. With Draick's arms above his head, the bottom of his plate armor was lifted slightly, and Entreri plunged the dagger home.
At just that moment, Reillon released his next attack, which was his death spell. With Entreri's dagger feeding on Draick's life energy, the assassin merely shrugged off the powerful spell and passed it on to Draick. The now ex-Captain of the City Guards, felt the cold death creep into him through the dagger in his gut, and his breath left him.
The weight of the great sword slowly pulled him backwards, and Entreri would have liked to watch him fall, but his heightened senses picked up Reillon releasing yet another spell, and he rolled to the side. A jet of flame filled the area where Entreri had just been, and since the spell was not magically guided, it just took the next person in line.
Draick was already dead, but now his torso was on fire as he tumbled backward out of the broken window. Reillon cursed, and with fire still shooting from his right hand out the window, his left crossed over to hurl a fireball at the assassin. As Entreri leaped away from the attack, he now understood how the mage was casting so quickly. He had never fought anyone who could cast two spells simultaneously, one with each hand.
The fireball exploded behind him, and Entreri felt the edges of the blast singe his skin. He knew about the protection Drizzt's magical scimitar offered the drow, and Entreri was a bit disappointed to find that his frost blade did not offer a comparable fire protection. In fact, if Entreri even touched his blade, it would actually hurt him. But Entreri realized what Reillon had said earlier; with increased power comes increased risk.
Entreri came out of his roll with his two weapons ready, and the rest of the room looking at him. "Is that all you've got mage?"
Reillon growled and took a step toward Entreri as if he wanted to engage the assassin in physical combat. Quinton grabbed onto his mage's shoulder to hold him back, and instead motioned to his two thieves. They each drew their weapons. Trevor had upgraded his arsenal since the fight in the alley, and pulled a high quality long sword that he had almost certainly stolen from the armory downstairs. Parnid pulled an equally nice short sword, and mimicked Entreri's style with a dagger in his second hand.
The two men walked slowly toward the assassin, and Entreri calmed himself. He did not feel deeply concerned. He had faced Trevor before and knew he could finish him in the opening seconds. Parnid could not be too difficult either if his trainees were any indication of his skill. Then he saw Reillon motion with his hands and send two white spheres toward the thieves. Entreri swallowed hard as he guessed what the spell was and was proven right a second later when the two men exploded into lightening fast attacks.
Entreri had caught the tale end of Drizzt's battle with Dantrag, the former Baenre weapon master who had worn the speed enhancing bracers. Drizzt had been able to trap the skilled fighter within his own speed. Dantrag had not been able to improvise, for his motions were too quick to change.
Drizzt had trained under the greatest weapon master Menzoberranzan had ever seen and knew all the routines Dantrag performed better than the Baenre did himself. Therefore he had been able to predict exactly what Dantrag was going to do next and was able to defeat him.
There were two main differences here. The first was that neither of these men had ever undergone extensive training and therefore would not operate within expected and predictable routines. Instead their attacks would be random and haphazard.
The second, and more important difference, if Entreri understood the haste spell Reillon had used, was that these men did not see themselves moving faster as much as they saw Entreri and everything else moving slower. The spell actually put them in a slightly different dimension. This meant that in their minds, they still had plenty of time to change their attacks in mid swing, and Entreri would have to counter those improvisations.
The assassin did not try to block the initial attacks, but instead initiated his own offensive routine. Like he had hoped, to the two thieves the attacks seemed slow, and they changed their stance to intercept them. If they had disregarded Entreri's blades, they probably cold have scored a hit before the assassin's weapons even came near them.
Entreri circled now that he had the two on the defensive, trying to get them to shield each other so he only had to face one at a time. They were better than that, though, and had obviously worked together before and quickly adjusted to Entreri's tactics.
The assassin took notice of this coordination and backed off for a moment. To Parnid and Trevor, this moment seemed like an eternity, and they both attacked. Entreri smiled as he saw their weapons work together, each filling a gap the other left open, but he was already on the floor, rolling towards Parnid's legs. With their attacks intertwined, when Parnid went down, they both went down.
Entreri rolled out of the jumbled mess, managing to slap Cicle's blade against Parnid's cheek. The frost blade ripped a patch of skin away from the thief's face, and he howled in pain. Both men stood, and Entreri could see blood running from Parnid's face. The man was furious, and Entreri opened his side to him.
Both men attacked again, but Parnid, seeing the obvious opening in Entreri's defenses, stepped in too quickly. Trevor had become so used to Entreri's slow movements that his partner's quicker step startled him, and he could not check his blade in time. It did not matter though, for as Parnid stepped in the way of his partner, receiving a cut to the side from Trevor's sword, Entreri had already snapped both his weapons back to cover his opening, knowing the attack from Trevor was no loner coming.
Parnid's blades faltered, and Entreri had his opening, he swept his rapier across the thief's short sword, clearing the path for his dagger to plunge into the unarmored chest. Entreri hugged the man tightly as his body convulsed quicker than normal under the haste spell and used him as a shield to prevent Trevor from attacking.
Soon Parnid's dead weight was too cumbersome and Entreri dropped it. "You'll die now!" Trevor shouted, but to Entreri the speed talk was just a jumbled mess. The agile thief leaped over his fallen comrade and attacked in a flurry. Entreri had no choice but to backpedal under the furious attacks. Soon he found himself nearing the edge of the room and furniture began to clog his path. He backed into Trevor's favorite high-backed chair and knew he had to change his strategy.
Instead of blocking the next high attack, Entreri ducked and thrust his rapier forward. Trevor easily leaped backward from the attack, but it gave Entreri some room. He began to spin. His cape flared out with each pass, hiding his body and his blades. Trevor knew they were there though, and deflected the circular attacks when they came around. The spin was very similar to the one Drizzt had used on numerous occasions, only Entreri's off weapon was not long enough to make it as effective.
Trevor was quickly catching on to the rhythm and noticed with great interest that on every revolution, Entreri's back was turned to him for a brief second. Only to Trevor, that brief second looked much longer, and he rocked back and forth with the assassin, waiting for a chance to strike.
Then it came. There was a brief hitch in Entreri's spin, and Trevor came diving in. His long sword thrust time and again into the back of the cape with blinding speed, and he felt his blade cut and tear into the assassin's flesh underneath.
Trevor was a little confused as to why Entreri had not fallen dead after half a dozen jabs, for surely he had pierced the assassin's heart several times by now. Then he felt Entreri's dagger slide slowly into his own back, and he knew his folly.
"You killed that chair good," Entreri whispered into the dead man's ear and let him fall. Trevor slumped to the ground, his blade pulling the cape from the back of the upholstered chair where Entreri had draped it a moment before during mid-spin.
Entreri did not take the time to marvel over his clever trick, but turned to track down the mage. Reillon was terrified of the man that walked toward him, and barely got off a spell before Entreri was in striking distance.
The assassin recognized the shimmering outline that came upon the mage as a stoneskin spell, and he smiled. "Trying to buy yourself some time?" Entreri asked. "It won't work." The assassin exploded into motion, counting aloud each time one of his blades struck the magical barrier.
Reillon's voice was quivering as he tried to get out a stun spell. He knew if he could just touch the assassin with it, Entreri would be helpless, for it was far more powerful than the projectile version. But the assassin's insane speed and unnerving counting, which made it very clear exactly how long Reillon had left to live, also made it very difficult to concentrate.
Reillon had cast a double stoneskin on himself, and as Entreri, with his dagger, stuck the magical barrier for the sixteenth and final time in a fourth as many seconds, he reversed his grip on his rapier, turned about, and plunged it backwards.
Reillon had just been ready to cast the hold spell, but as Entreri turned quickly about, Reillon missed him and the spell misfired. As the frost blade sunk into his unprotected chest, Reillon stunned himself. As the last word of the spell escaped his lips, it was followed by a blue puff of frost.
The rest of the room watched on in horror, as the mage's stunned body slowly lost all heat and began to freeze over. Entreri walked a few paces away and turned to watch the spectacle. Reillon's mouth was still open, as the pale skin around it became even whiter under Cicle's influence. When the process was completed, a sickening crackle sounded through the room, and Reillon was completely frozen.
Entreri walked back up to the mage and yanked his sword free. The sound it made was like a blade being scraped against stone. The added momentum also started Reillon's statue falling forward. It hit the ground and shattered into a thousand pieces. A chill ran down Entreri's spine as he realized the power of his new weapon, and he quickly sheathed it.
Quinton was aghast. He was leaning against the table for support as pieces of his mage scattered about his feet. At first he was too stunned at the displays he had just seen to contemplate that he was next, but as Entreri slowly walked up to him, only his dagger in his hand, Quinton realized that his time had come to an end.
Entreri paused in front of the terrified man, his dagger held so its glint reflected into Quinton's eyes. The call had not come from Quinton, but from Jerithon. "Don't kill him."
"I wasn't going to," Entreri said, and his next three words ensured his future in this city, "he isn't armed."
Quinton relaxed visibly, and Entreri grabbed him roughly by the collar with his free hand. "You set me up. For that I should gut you like the spineless pig that you are. And if I wasn't feeling so damn righteous right now, I would."
With that, Entreri let go of the man, slapped him twice, and turned to leave. "Wait!" Jerithon called again. "You can just leave us like this!"
Entreri turned back around, already halfway to the door. "I was asked to kill a mage." He motioned to the shrapnel on the floor, which was slowly melting back to flesh. "I've done that."
"Please," Ellen asked. She had watched this whole display without leaving John's side. The captain, as much as he would have loved to see the assassin at work, had been unconscious through the whole affair.
When Ellen had heard from Parnid that Entreri had indeed come to rescue them, she had been confused. Then when he had whirled about the room, cutting up everything that moved, she realized that she had no idea what he was. But having just spared Quinton's life, when he was probably the most deserving of death, she understood that she had been right all along.
"Please," she said again.
Entreri looked at Quinton. "Do you have the key?" he asked, nodding toward Jerithon's suspended cage. Quinton nodded. "Let him go." The older man hesitated. "Let. Him. Go." Entreri made sure it was clear that he would not repeat himself again.
Quinton moved like a scolded child and did as he was told. He went to the winch on the wall and gently lowered the cage to the ground. He then unlocked the door and backed away. Jerithon wanted to leap out of the cage and throttle the man, but his legs had been in a cramped position for almost two whole days, and he found he was barely able to stand. Still Quinton kept his distance.
Entreri was not finished yet. "Go pick up that sword," he ordered, pointing to where Trevor had fallen. Quinton looked confused. Entreri did not bother repeating himself, but merely cocked his head and stared hard at the man. Even from across the room, the look was enough to get Quinton moving. He ran over to Trevor and pried the long sword from the dead man's hand.
"Now give it to the mayor."
"What?" Quinton responded. "He'll kill me."
"You give him that one," Entreri said as he drew his rapier and swiped it back and forth in front of him, leaving a frosty wake hanging in the air, "or I'll give him this one."
Quinton nearly impaled himself as he scrambled to give the weapon to Jerithon. As soon as the mayor held the sword up, he regained a measure of his strength and confidence. "Sit down," he ordered Quinton.
Entreri turned to Ellen. "Anything else?"
Ellen smiled at him. "Thank-you."
Entreri gritted his teeth as he prepared to say two particular words for the first time in his life. "You're welcome." With that he left.
* * *
Mayor Jerithon Alexander looked out of his window toward the river. He could see that the construction on the new warehouses across the river had already begun, and he was happy his daughter had been able to employ the workers required. Ellen was a member of the City Council now, and she was more than taking up the slack for the four they had lost.
It had been two weeks since the night when Entreri had taken back the city and handed it to Jerithon. The mayor had had his doubts about the man, but Ellen had been insistent that he allow him to stay within the city.
He had killed ten men directly that night, not including the five from the trapped door. That alone should have given him the death penalty, or at least earned him banishment from the city. It was not just that he had killed them, it was how he had killed them.
Ellen had argued against this thinking. The men who died were evil. They had been hired to take over the city, and if necessary, kill anyone who stood against them. Entreri had done what he needed to do. She said that if he had just shot them all with a crossbow, Jerithon would not have given it a second thought and would have held a parade in his honor. Dead is dead. It did not matter how Entreri had done it, just that he had. What was more important was whom he had killed, why he had killed them, and when he had stopped.
When it was presented to him in that light, Jerithon agreed with his daughter and allowed the assassin to stay. After some extra thought, he had even asked if he wanted to be Captain of the City Guard, but Entreri had just laughed, saying he was happy with his shack on the edge of the city.
Jerithon relented and instead ended up promoting one of the loyal men who had survived the take over. He was still looking for three more councilmen, but that would take time. People were not too eager to join a group that had so recently been a target of assassins no matter how much assurance Jerithon gave them that the threat had ended.
There was a knock on his door. "Come," Jerithon called. His page opened the door and scampered in. "Yes?"
The boy had ended his silent servitude and was allowed to speak now. "A woman is here to see you, sir. She said that she has traveled a long way to get here and that it is imperative she speaks with you."
"Does she have a name?"
The boy shrugged. "She did not give one."
Jerithon frowned. "Next time get one. Show her up."
The boy disappeared and a minute later led a thin well-dressed woman into the room. She was dressed for the outdoors, but her clothes had a regal look that said she was someone of importance. Her face could have been pretty, but her look was one of utter seriousness, making her almost homely. She was tall, and her movements very fluid and graceful except for a slight limp.
"My name is Elliorn," she said once the page had left and closed the door behind him. "I am a ranger from up north."
Jerithon rose from behind his desk to great his guest. She did not accept his offered hand. "Please have a seat," he offered. She shook her head. "Would you like a drink?" She shook it again.
"I'm here on business," she replied.
Regardless, Jerithon poured himself one and took his seat back behind the desk. "What about?"
"I understand you were victimized by some pretty brutal murders lately," she said.
"Yes," Jerithon agreed. "It was about two and a half weeks ago, but we caught the murderer. He was publicly executed last week, in fact."
"Quinton Palluge," Elliorn said, letting Jerithon know she knew what she was talking about, "a 53-year-old gem and precious metal merchant. He was your killer?"
"Well," Jerithon replied, "he had a few hired goons, but we were able to track them down without too much difficulty."
"Indeed. Let me get to the point, Mayor. I am looking for a deadly assassin who goes by the name Artemis. He is a few inches shorter than I am, with a neatly trimmed goatee. He wears a black cape and hat and uses a short sword and dagger. Do you know anyone who matches that description?"
Jerithon paused in thought and then shook his head. "I'm sorry, but I can't think of anyone." Entreri used a rapier now.
Elliorn looked a little annoyed. "I have reason to believe he is in your city and would request permission to conduct a search."
"Please," Jerithon agreed, "by all means, conduct your search. If this man lives within my city, I would appreciate any help you could offer to remove him."
"Can I retain the services of you City Guards?"
"Alas," Jerithon sad sadly, "we are a little short-handed right now, and I can not give you any guarantees. But feel free to question them as much as you like." They had all been told how to respond, and since Entreri was responsible for saving their jobs, they would comply.
"Well, if you remember anything that might help me, please let me know."
"Of course," Jerithon said. "If he turns up after you leave, I'll be sure to send a message to you as soon as possible."
Elliorn left. Jerithon waited a few minutes until he was sure she had left the building and then rang for his page. The boy appeared within moments. "Bring this to Artemis's house on the edge of the city," Jerithon said, handing the boy a rolled parchment he had prepared in advance. "Be quick about it."
The boy left, and Jerithon went back to looking at the construction across the river.
This is where the story ends. If I write any more in this world with Entreri, that story will pick up right here. If you look at the scroll bar to the right, though, you will see that this story continues a bit further. I almost did not include the following epilogue because I knew half of you would not like it. In reality, though, the few pages that follow are the real reason I wrote this story in the first place. I had imagined the following scene every night for about a month, but I knew that I could not get there unless I wrote what you just read. This epilogue is my response to what Drizzt said in his introduction to Part III of Servant of the Shard. Even though I thought of this story long before Servant of the Shard was even published, it turned out RAS and I were on the same page here. If you have not read the book, do not worry, I will not spoil the story, maybe a bit of the intro, but not the story. In the intro, Drizzt explains why he did not kill Entreri when he had the chance in Silent Blade. Briefly, he said that he could not kill Entreri because he could see that the assassin had hated what he had become. Drizzt had shown him that his life was hollow, and while Entreri hated the drow for it, neither could he deny its reality. Drizzt also says that he knew by holding back his blade, he sentenced many people to death at the hands of the assassin. How could this be justified? Even if Entreri did have a change of heart down the road, how is sparing his life worth the many he would kill before his redemptive change? How can this be justified, you ask. Read on, and I shall tell you.
***End of Note***
20 Years Later.
"Uncle Art, Uncle Art!"
Entreri paused in his work and leaned on his shovel as he watched the young child run toward him. The child's name was William Irenum, son of John and Ellen Irenum. His mother was the mayor of Garrilport.
Entreri really hated that name. The kid was the youngest of four, and at the age of seven, he still had a hard time saying the name Artemis. It was his parent's idea to shorten the name to Art, and Entreri had never forgiven them. He preferred Artremus, as William would say, to Art any day.
Uncle Art was a side of Entreri that he had not known existed. Art was not a killer or an assassin. He was a respected member of the community. Art had never drawn a weapon in his life. Most of all, Art was an honorary uncle.
In Calimport, as Entreri had climbed his way to prominence, many people had talked about him. They had said there was a special skill that went along with being Entreri, a skill that went beyond his use of weapons and applied more to the way he lived his life. There had been the loneliness of being Entreri also, for the young man made no friends and had made it clear he did not want any. There was also the fear of being Entreri, for as the most powerful man in Calimport, he was also the most often targeted.
In the end, his peers had summed it up by saying there was an "Art" to being Entreri. Little did they know how right they were.
"Uncle Art," the boy called for the forth time as he finally ran up to Entreri.
"What is it Billy?" Entreri could not help notice how much different this Billy was from the first one he had met in Garrilport.
"Mom said that a really important person is in town today and they are going to have a celebration in their honor."
"Really," Entreri responded, already able to tell where this was going to go.
"Yea, it's a really famous ranger from the north."
Entreri paused in thought. Had Elliorn finally caught up with him after all these years? He had had several close calls over the past two decades, but he had managed to elude the determined woman so far. "Does this ranger have a name?"
"He does, but it is a really weird one," Billy responded.
Entreri let out a sigh of relief at the male pronoun and went back to work with the shovel. "Well what is it?" Billy had trouble with most names he had not heard before. If he had not thought this ranger's name weird, Entreri would have had cause to worry.
"It's Drizzit, or something."
Entreri froze. He suddenly ceased being Art, and quickly changed back to Entreri, the deadly assassin. His right hand went for his dagger, but it was, of course, not there. Then common sense set in. Drizzt was dead. Entreri had killed him. Kimmuriel, one of Jarlaxle's lieutenants, had given Entreri momentary psionic powers to defeat him. His last image of the drow ranger was his torn and bloody body lying on the floor inside one of Crenshinibon's towers. Kimmuriel had dragged him away from the scene with a psionic leash, while Jarlaxle and Rai-guy, a drow priest, had stood over the fallen Drizzt.
A thought entered Entreri's mind then, but he dismissed it just as quickly. Jarlaxle would have no reason to resurrect Drizzt. Sure, Rai-guy had the capability, but Entreri knew that the priest hated Drizzt almost as much as he did. No, this ranger named Drizzit was just a victim of one of Billy's verbal massacres.
"And Mom says he's an elf too."
Entreri almost cried.
"Have you ever seen an elf, Uncle Art?"
Entreri nodded. "How's your father feeling?"
Billy shook his head. "He's not doing so well."
Ever since Draick had broken his leg, John had had his good days and his bad days. As the years took their toll, the latter out numbered the former by a considerable amount. When the goblin-kind uprising had occurred over fifteen years ago, it had killed John that he was not able to participate in the fight.
Entreri had, though, and in the following years, he had fought alongside John's two eldest sons. They were fine men now, and either one of them would make a fine captain one day. Entreri had kept busy over the years.
He had taken particular interest in the news from the north. Garrilport had suffered through several raids from goblin-kind, but up around Karenstoch, they had it ten times worse. Entreri found it amusing when he heard of the reports that Elliorn was leading yet another goblin purge into the north woods. If Drizzt really was here, he had probably come as a result of the problems up north. He had always been a quick one to offer aid.
"Mom says I can't go into the city alone," Billy started, hoping his uncle would not make him finish the request.
"So you want me to take you to this celebration so you can meet the famous Drizzit?"
"Will you? Oh, thank-you, thank-you. You're the best Uncle Art."
"Just shut up and get in the wagon," he said, fighting back the color that was rising in his cheek. There were times when he hated that kid.
Entreri set his shovel aside for now and climbed up easily into the tall wagon. He snapped his reigns once, and the two horses pulled the wagon away from his home. The shack from twenty years ago had undergone some radical changes in the time Entreri had lived there, and so had the rest of the neighborhood. This was now one of the nicer sections of the city. In fact, the mayor's house was right next to his.
The trip to the center of town was brief, and Entreri found he could not park as close to the city square as he had wanted. The two left the wagon at a hitching post and went the rest of the way on foot. There was a large pavilion set up in the square, and about a hundred people had gathered to meet this strange celebrity. The pair waded into the crowd, trying to get a good view of the stage up front.
"I can't see," Billy complained, futilely jumping up and down a few inches trying to get his head above the much taller crowd.
Neither can I, Entreri thought. He reached down and picked Billy up in his strong hands and set him up on his shoulders. Entreri could feel an obvious change go through the young boy. "Can you see him?"
"Uncle Art," he said in a serious whisper, "he's black."
Entreri had to chuckle at this. He had already convinced himself that it was Drizzt, and this pretty much sealed it. There could not be too many more dark elf rangers running around whose name sounded like "Drizzit." Why Jarlaxle had saved him would remain a mystery.
Drizzt was not the only one Billy could see, for his mother was up there also. She quickly returned Billy's look, for up on his "uncle's" shoulders, he was easily the tallest head in the crowd. Not only did Ellen see her son, but she had a pretty good guess who he might be sitting on. She motioned for Billy to come to the front of the stage, thinking it might be a good idea to introduce one of the heroes of the north to the hero of Garrilport.
"Mom wants us to go up there," Billy said, leaning over and looking Entreri in the face.
"I thought she might." The meeting was inevitable now, and Entreri gritted his teeth.
"Coming through! Excuse us! I'm going to see my mom!" Billy exclaimed from his high perch, directing traffic as Entreri tried to work his way through the crowd. Finally the pair made it all the way to the front, and Entreri was standing before the stage.
It was Drizzt, all right, and he did not look a day older than the last time Entreri had seen him. Entreri was sixty years old, but he still prided himself has being the best fighter in the city. He had lost a step or two, and his blades were not quite as quick, but he had had a lot to loose to begin with, and still no one could match his skill. Yet as he looked at Drizzt, who must be nearing a century in age, he knew he could not last five seconds against the drow now.
"Hello, Drizzt Do'Urden."
Drizzt was slightly less prepared for this meeting than was Entreri. Drizzt had never expected to see the assassin again. The years had not been kind to Wulfgar and Catti-brie, and Drizzt had just assumed that Entreri, who had been ten years their senior to begin with, had faired little better. Especially since his last information had Jarlaxle and Entreri teamed together. The drow mercenary leader had a good 300 years left in him, and Drizzt knew he would not tolerate an aging assassin.
"Hello Artemis Entreri," Drizzt replied. "Elliorn had told me about someone she had been chasing for the past two decades, but I just did not want to believe it."
Ellen looked at the two fighters with sincere confusion. "Do you two know each other?" They both turned to the mayor and nodded. With all the good Entreri had done for the city, she had all but forgotten his checkered past and instantly assumed that both Drizzt and Entreri had fought side by side, pushing back evil in the land across the great sea.
"Well this is indeed a joyous occasion. Not only have two old friends reunited, but they do so as heroes in their own right."
Drizzt's ears picked up at this, and he cast the assassin a curious glance. Entreri just shook his head.
"I'm sure you two have a lot you want to talk about," Ellen continued, adding fuel to the fire. "Art, why don't you join us at the head table during the banquet. I'm sure your exploits might even impress our guest of honor."
"Yea, Uncle Art," Billy chimed in. "I'm sure Ranger Drizzit will love to hear about how you killed all those goblins by yourself, especially their giant leader."
Entreri could not look Drizzt in the eyes. "I don't know. I'm sure Drizzt here won't be impressed by my humble accomplishments. You have to remember that Drizzt grew up in the Underdark and has battled demons and all kinds of-"
"Nonsense, Art," Drizzt interrupted, barely restraining his laughter at the assassin's obvious discomfort. He had even missed Billy's mispronunciation of his name. "I would love to hear of your tales of valor."
"I bet you would," Entreri said under his breath, but Drizzt's sharp ears picked it up.
"Then it is settled," Ellen said, a large smile spreading across her face. "And I believe it is probably time that we head over to the tables now, for the feast is about to begin. This will be a very interesting evening."
As a pair of City Guards led Drizzt off the stage, Ellen fell in next to Entreri, who had removed Billy from his shoulders and was now leading the child by the hand.
"How do you know him?" she asked quietly.
"Actually," Entreri said, stopping to look Ellen in the face, "I killed him once."
"Oh?" Ellen said, not getting the joke. Then she remembered what Entreri had been before he had arrived in Garrilport. "Oh," she repeated with realization slapping her in the face. "This will be an interesting evening."
Entreri could only nod.
Any and all comments are welcome, and I reply to all emails. Though I do not have any plans on writing stories to fill in the 20 year gap I have created, that is not to say that some day I won't. I do, however, have two more stories in the works including RAS characters, that I hope to complete within the next six months, while I continue to write in the SW universe. Hey, I might not be able to please everyone, but that doesn't mean I can't try. I hope this story has helped to fill the long wait between RAS novels, and I thank you for reading it.