The Beginning of Something Different

He had spent the last few years travelling aimlessly about Faerun and had finally decided it was about time to go back home. The journey itself from the Silver Marches to the desert of where he called home was at least a few weeks, but more likely months. He had lost track of the time and days that had passed.

He was walking there, thinking of what a lie he had been living most of his life. That Drizzt Do'Urden had been correct in saying his life was empty...well, it took his staying in a drow city to understand that it had been no lie.

He was determined to change that but he had no idea how? Was he supposed to just forget the past 30 years? Was he supposed to scrub out what he was, what he had done? He wondered suddenly if his father ever had regrets at what he had done, but shook his head. No, there was no going back for that bastard.

Could he possibly be able to take his life and make it something better? He wasn't sure, all he knew was he would not become anything like his father. But if he didn't find a way...would that make him no better?

With a growl, he pushed any thoughts of his father out of his head and just thought of ways to make his life mean something...he could think of nothing.

He was close to home now, the camel he was now on plodding its way the last few miles. What he saw when the city he had lived in most of his life came into view, he thought was his imagination. Most buildings were nothing but rubble, wood had been burnt to cinders and there was a much thicker curtain of flies than normal buzzing about the demolished city.

As he and his humped mount travelled closer he noted the smell of burnt skin and not so freshly dead bodies. This had happened only a few short weeks ago, perhaps a few days and with the heat of the desert decomposition was happening faster. All he knew was that the sight with the added smell was making him feel nauseous.

Slowly, he climbed down from the camel's back and went closer to the wreckage. Closely looking for signs of what had happened, he found what he was looking for. Just to the east of the wrecked city was a huge red dragon, dead.

Wherever he turned, there was something out to make his life more miserable than it already was...and now it was dragons. A creature he was determined to hate for the rest of his life.

Slowly he looked over the dead dragon and noted that it had only been dead a few short days. So, it was the sun making the bodies rot faster.

Turning about, he made his way to the beginning of the rubble and the first thing he noted was a blackened hand poking out of the stone that had used to be a house. The dragon must have been firing its breath weapon down upon the wooden hovels and burning them to the ground before swinging its heavy, yet whip-like tail at the stone houses of the more fortunate.

There was not one building left standing. A thought come to him then...what if someone was stilll alive, buried under rock? With no reason as to why, he began to move some of the rubble away to uncover the rest of the body the hand belonged to.

It was only burnt in places, mainly on that hand. It had also once been a boy about twelve years old. With a loud sigh, he pulled the poor lad out from his prison of rock. A sound reached his ears then that he had not expected. Sniffling was coming from further under the wreckage. Glancing under, he noticed that a slab of rock had fallen and had been stopped by two columns that might have once held up a heavy door. Under the slab was a tight space free of debris. Clinging as if to life to a corpse of an adult male was a girl around six years old. And she was alive.

Looking about, he knew there was no way of picking up the heavy piece of rock, but if he could clear some space and fiind a way to lever the heavy slab up enough for the girl to crawl out, he may yet keep her alive.

He got started immediately, clearing away a lot of the smaller rubble pieces strewn in front of the cubby the girl was hidden in. After that was done, he looked about and began picking about the debris looking for something to lever the slab up a bit...or away completely.

He soon found a piece of metal, light enough to carry, but strong enough - or so he hoped - to hold up the weight.

Going back to the girl, he got the metal in the right spot and heaved. The stone moved slightly away from the girl. It was enough of a gap for him to reach down and grab her and pull her free.

"Let go and come with me." He said, not in his usual tone. He didn't want to scare the child away after all. The girl shook her head and clung tighter to the body that must have been her father.

"Da won't wake up." She said as he inched in to the cramped place.

Realising this was the first time the young girl probably had witnessed death, it was understandable that she would think such a thing, but he knew that could not last forever.

"He is not going to wake up ever again. Come, give me your hand and I will pull you out." He reached out his hand but still the girl was stubborn enough to shake her head.

"Take Da out first."

With a huge sigh, he relented to that. Perhaps he could at least give the poor man a burial for his daughters sake. Being dead for at least a day, the body was rank, but if it would get the child moving...he was too big to crawl in, so he had to get the girl to pass him a hand.

Once the man was outside next to the boy he had dug up, he went back to get the girl. She was quiet now and held her hands out for him to grab. He slowly grabbed the small hands and carefully pulled the girl free.

Looking about and blinking at the destruction about her, the next sentence would have been funny if the situation wasn't so damn serious. "Where did the houses all go?"

"Gone. Turned to small bits of rock, just as your house did. Where is your mother?" Seeing as both bodies were found under the same roof, he assumed that the boy was an older brother.

"She went away...never came back." The girl clung to him then, a little annoying, but if it made her feel better..."She left with another man...da had known from the temple closest to home."

He almost growled in distaste. This young girl had witnessed her mother leaving her and her family for another man. The thought of any parent abandoning their child made his blood boil. There were poorer men and women that were better mannered!

"Well, we can keep each other company...perhaps see if anyone else to hear us."

The girl sniffed and nodded. She then went to the house next to her demolished one and started to poke through the rubble. Entreri went the the house on the other side.

All he found was another five bodies.

A scream suddenly rent the air alerting Entreri to any danger that might be about. Fortunately, there was no other dragons about. Instead he found the girl looking down into a small space she had just made. She screamed again, a noise that grated on Entreri's nerves and ears.

With little patience, he stormed over to the girl and looked at where she was pointing, frozen in horror. It was the body of another little girl, about the same age as she was, but definitely dead. Part of a wall had collapsed on top of her and had damaged the small childs face. Entreri guessed that the only reason his young charge was so upset was because they had been friends.

"Atala!" The girl said, before promptly getting sick. She then walked off to what had been her family, but was now so much meat.

Witth a shuddering moan, the girl began to loudly sob over the dead figure of her father. Artemis didn't know what to do. He was not good at offering comfort to those who needed it. He had never been offered any when he had needed it as a child, why should he help this girl, who obviously cared a lot for her father?

Remembering the feeling of utter helplessness one can feel when ones world is completely turned around, he knew instinctively that he had to do something. But what? With a sigh he slowly turned the girl about and held her close to himself.

She clung to him as if hungry for the touch, and perhaps she was. It made him feel nothing but uncomfortable as she sobbed heavily into his shirt, her small arms wrapped about his waist.

Uncomfortable thought it might have been, he let the child stay in the clutching position she was in. If it made her stop crying, he would have danced a jig for her...though he would never be caught dead doing so for anyone else.

He couldn't bear the noise of the small girl's grief.

After a while the noise stopped, but the girl didn't let go. With a sigh of frustration, Entreri lowered himself to the rubble on the ground and looked at his small problem.

"What is your name, girl?" he asked, the question coming out harsher than he meant it to.

At first she didn't answer, but when she did, she said he name quietly. Her parents taught her well. To give someone your name gave them control over you. "Jasmal," she whispered though, and he could tell she wasn't lying.

"Hello Jasmal, my name is Artemis."

He gave her his first name as undoubtedly everyone in Calimshan had heard his last. It felt strange to give someone his given name. It was something he hadn't done since he became a member of the Bassadoni guild.

In some ways, it evven felt good.

A/N - Well, here is the start of a new Forgotten Realms story by me. This one is, as you have undoubtedly guessed by now, about everyone's favourite assassin, Artemis Entreri. I hope you all enjoy.

Sorry about not getting 'Light in the Darkness' updated any time soon, but I have one chronic case of writer's block for it, which is bad, especially since I know what I want to happen. I guess finding out I am slowly going blind myself did it for me...ever since, I haven't written any of that story. Ah well, it will be finished...eventually.

Ariel D, here it is, and thanks for the list of names for gals in Calimshan. I would still be thinking of a name for the poor girl without it.