Darkest Sky: Lost Before It Happened

By Ariel

Description: A response to the September challenge. Entreri's thoughts after leaving Menzoberranzan. Angst.

Disclaimer: Artemis Entreri and all other recognizable characters belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast. No challenge to the copyright is intended or should be inferred. The following story is just for the amusement of the fans and will never make any profit. This poor student isn't worth suing to begin with.

A/N: Whew. For a several days there I didn't think my muse was even going to throw me a bone. Anyway, this is a very short scene that takes place right after Drizzt and Catti-brie part ways with Entreri after escaping Menzoberranzan.


The evening sky seemed to arch away from the man in an endless arc of dying colors, as russet orange, rose, and crimson lost the battle with the encroaching blackness. Behind the man, darkness had already fallen, and he turned to face that inky panorama. Despite his utter seclusion in the endless night of Menzoberranzan, the man found that the darkness lost its heaviness as soon as he looked upon it. No, the heavens became instead a vaulted ceiling, an enchanted ceiling with ten billion sparkling stars which shimmered silver, white, or gold. Never in his thirty-four years of life had Artemis Entreri seen such beauty—or rather, he had never taken the time to appreciate it.

The urge was odd and maudlin, but the assassin felt the impulse to thank some deity for the vast expanse of the sky. The feeling passed instantly, though, and he did not damn himself for it. After so long spent trapped in the Underdark, he had really begun to fear that he would never see the sky again. The great adventure that Jarlaxle had offered him had turned into a stint of slavery, and the human had felt more than a loss of freedom. He had, ever so slightly, felt the loss of his entire world, both metaphorically and literally: not just the familiar games of Calimport, but the sun, the stars, the moon . . . the deserts, ocean, and grass. Sandstorms and rain alike suddenly seemed more than dangers or inconveniences. But Artemis Entreri was neither a man of introspection nor depth, and once the realization had been made, he'd pushed it into the corner of his soul where he sent all things he deemed of no importance. He sent it to the void.

Or so he'd thought. But now that he was free under the arching stars, he wondered just how successful he'd been. In fact, he wondered if there really were a "void" at all, or if the many, many things he thought he'd buried forever were awaiting a chance to resurface and confront him.

Confront . . .

Drizzt and Catti-brie had headed down the tunnels into Mithril Hall hours ago, and Entreri had simply walked off in the opposite direction. He had wanted to be as far from the Companions, the drow, and the Underdark as possible. He'd wandered down an unfamiliar road until sunset, not paying any attention to his surroundings at all, until the sun had finally slipped below the horizon and the approaching night had made itself known. Night was his time, his element, his cover. His senses seemed to further sharpen with the darkness, his eyesight, hearing, and even sense of smell becoming all the keener. Now, a dozen minute details pressed themselves upon him: the dancing shadows cast by flailing tree limbs, chirping birds, and the scent of smoke carried on the wind from a faraway cottage. But the details held no special significance. No meaning.

Then again, nothing held meaning and nothing ever had.

Buried in its own monotonous trudging, the world had ever been a collage of amorphous greys and blacks, and yet the assassin had forced form upon it. Flat and dull, the march of days had ever been trampled under Entreri's boots as he marched toward his only goal: to be the best. He had aspired to perfection, to rise above a common yet wretched world which was awash in spit, blood, and vomit—the waste products of the greedy, evil, and lustful. He would not be the destitute drunk slobbering on himself in the street, the starving, petty thief with the bloated belly, or even the common merchant pushing gaudy wares on an uninterested crowd. He would be perfection: silent, meticulous, talented. The man who could not be defeated, not by the blade and not by life. With the wretched vileness of the world so pervasive, he had seen no choice but be the sharpest—the best—that the dark world could offer.

He had been a fool.

Even as he thought the words, Entreri's soul cried out in denial. But behind him, deep underground, lived 20,000 drow just like him: perfect warriors of perfect stealth, masters of deception and intrigue, killers of killers without emotion or conscience. In the vast cavernous hell around him, the assassin had gazed upon 20,000 Artemis Entreris, and he had hated them every one.

With a soul-weary sigh, Entreri climbed the gently sloping hill next to the road and sat in the grass. It was a sobering thing to look into such a profound mirror. They pursued their game with religious fervor, with greedy zeal. They were everything that Entreri had once believed he could respect. They were nothing.

Empty. Shallow.

Meaningless.

The assassin chewed his bottom lip for a moment, but then caught himself and stopped. Meaningless. That was the silent, unacknowledged mantra of his existence. Nothing had meaning. All the things he'd been taught to believe held meaning as a young child had been negated. Nullified. His father had taught him of honor, justice, and loyalty, and then had betrayed him in a manner so explicit, so complete, and so depraved that the idealistic world that had been painted for him shattered. Everyone he had known and trusted had betrayed him, left him in a hell of perversion and pain, left him to save himself. And he had.

Or had he?

This drive and ambition which had empowered him, which had pulled him above the masses, turned out to have a culmination. Menzoberranzan was the living tribute to all he had believed and aspired to. It was nothing.

Now what?

The assassin frowned. How could he even ask such a question? He needed to return to Calimport, to the city he came closest to calling "home," and resume his life.

For what purpose?

Why do something devoid of meaning? Why engage in a game that is ultimately empty? But even as he thought the words, Entreri's mind struggled against the thought. Besides, he couldn't imagine any other life. What else could he do? He was a warrior, a thief, an assassin by trade. What other place did the world have for him?

Could he find something else? Could he live somewhere else?

Entreri shook his head as the denial resurfaced yet again. How could he think such things? No, he was making a mistake, one he knew better than to make: he was over-thinking this. He'd always known life to be empty and petty; surely seeing the epitome of that fact in the drow changed nothing. Still, he had too many questions, too many conflicting thoughts. If he returned to Calimport while this confused he would be dead within a day. Maybe he should wander for a bit, travel a few different lands. It would give him time to find his center of balance again, to settle this question of whether his idea of perfection was ultimately a useless endeavor.

A spark of rage lit in the man's chest at the thought, and he couldn't help reflecting on a hundred different quips Drizzt had thrown in his direction. Drizzt—the only reason he was free now. Surely the drow could not have been right all this time. Entreri's life was not a lie. And yet the formless faces of 20,000 drow instantly rose in the assassin's imagination, and they stared at him with empty malice. Meaningless.

Entreri pushed himself to his feet and wandered back down to the road. The dirt road wasn't much more than a wide trail which meandered far off into the distance. A long walk. A long time to sort out these new and conflicting thoughts. The assassin sighed again and felt a strange sinking sensation in his gut like a stone drifting to the bottom of a pond. What happens to an ambitious man when all his drive is stolen from him?

Artemis Entreri did not want to know the answer.


A/N: Sigh. I know, a real downer. So allow me to leave you with the quote I use as my siggy: "I know not yet where I hope to go, what challenges are left before me, but I do understand now that the important thing is to enjoy the process of getting there."--AE

Thanks to my ever helpful and vigilant beta readers, my fiance and darkhelmet. Thanks also to any who review this piece.