Disclaimer: The recognizable characters in this fanfiction were created by R. A. Salvatore in association with the legal entity Wizards of the Coast, who owns relevant copyrights to additional Forgotten Realms material referred to herein. The characters are used without permission but no material profit of any kind is being made from the following work. WotC reserve rights to Forgotten Realms material, but all characters and situations unique to this work of fan fiction are property of the writer.

AN: inspired, in part, by an LE local, but for somebody I've lost contact with.

hidden voices

Pain was nothing new to Entreri, for all it was blooming from every corner of his bludgeoned and battered form. Under his clothing, his skin was turning into a cartographer's nightmare; a landscape of broken capillaries, growing kingdoms of bruising, ribs pulled free from their cartilage homes formed unsteady elevated ridges. Stubborn and willful to the bitterest of ends, Entreri willed his trembling arms underneath his torso and started to lift himself up.

He'd lost his hold on his slashing dagger, but he didn't need two blades to slit open a wizard's belly. All he needed was a little strength and a little more time before the next casting.

The assassin ignored the faint voice of dismay within his mind when he heard a woman's melodious voice beginning another casting. The woman. He'd hoped to kill the wizard and be gone before she would prove herself prisoner or ally. A sudden question stabbed into his mind with further gravity. Why did he hear her? Unless the collision had been hard enough to knock one of the expensive pieces of wax out of his ear.

The torturous and slow journey from his prone position on the floor to balancing unsteadily on shaky hands and knees left Entreri without energy to contemplate the loss of one of the halves of wax. Instead, he rocked his body back, freeing his hands but leaving him still on his knees. Thankfully he had the straight dagger, which was far more suited to a throw. He swiveled his torso to face the mark, bemused by the man making a final gesture toward him. Where was the woman?

Another surge of adrenaline brought Entreri's arm up for a throw, but as injured as he was, he could not outrace the incoming spell. The spell did not make any alarming noises, except a popping noise in the assassin's unplugged ear followed by a sudden stabbing pain deep within the canal.

To Entreri's utter astonishment, the room suddenly spun crazily out of control. His arms shot out to steady him, but the motion only took the world further out of his control. Instead of steadying him, his attempt at finding equilibrium threw him sideways onto the stone floor. Worse still, though he swore he could not be moving, cheek pressing painfully into the floor as it was, the room was still wildly beyond his ability to grasp. Entreri forgot completely the hideous pain wracking his body, the bizarre throbbing in his ear: no matter how he tried, he could not stop the spinning!

When the mage grasped the hand still clutching the dagger, Entreri snarled ferociously and stabbed at where he thought Terthus would have to be. The dagger connected with nothing, came nowhere near the man pulling his arm up and, by extension, pulling the assassin's torso off the floor.

"Shhh, I shan't kill you yet." For all Entreri was helpless to look directly at the mage, the voice revealed a feature the assassin found ridiculously obvious. Terthus was the woman. Or, rather, his voice was.

The young assassin, struggling more out of pride than good sense, continued to wrest his hand out of the mage's warm grip. He knew he was far stronger than the mage, but the loss of his equilibrium made the chore pointless. When he felt his wrist encounter what seemed to be cold metal, Entreri tried instead to use his body weight against Terthus.

Rather than struggle, Entreri relied on gravity to do his work for him. The assassin went suddenly limp, letting the dead weight do what he could not. It was an excellent idea and if Entreri had been a bigger man, it might have worked. As it was, his lean frame was not possessed of sufficient weight to truly deter Koedrobo. The cold feel of a manacle slithered across the assassin's arm to surround his wrist. When it stilled, he neither heard nor felt the sound of a bolt sliding home or iron tumblers turning over in a lock.

"Shhh," Terthus said again, his feminine voice at great odds with his thick jaw and deep set eyes. "Stop this nonsense and talk with me a moment. Or… I'll just kill you. At least give me the satisfaction of hearing your voice. I would hate to only know that interesting growl you gave me."

Sorely confused and beginning to become nauseous from the spinning room, Entreri decided that even if he did manage to kill Koedrobo, he wouldn't be able to get back to Calimport in the shape he was in. He remained still, torso suspended over the floor from the length of his arm. There had to be a way to reverse the spell the mage had cast on him.

"Let's start with why you're here," the man's lovely, and obviously stolen, voice continued. Smooth fingers continued to try, without satisfaction, to force the dagger from Entreri's iron grip. "Who sent you?"

Conversation had never been Entreri's strong suit. He wasn't a bad liar when he needed to be and he was a skilled hand at avoiding problematic subjects when they arose. As disoriented as he was, the killer grasped at a story that suddenly seemed bizarrely plausible.

"Listen closely, Koedrobo," Entreri spat, forcing his voice to remain steady, "we know what you've been up to and my guild isn't going to overlook it any longer. You're a thief and you are unaffiliated with any guild. I'm here to demand your allegiance to my guild, payment of back duties, and several of your specimens as a cut of your action."

Dondon would be proud. Dondon would be more convincing. Entreri swore to himself Dondon would hear nothing about the incident if—when he got back to Calimport.

The assassin took the wizard's lack of immediate response as stunned silence. There was a pause in pressure on the assassin's tightly clenched hand that seemed to verify his assumption. Rather than wait on the man's answer, Entreri began to test his limitations.

He closed his eyes to see if it would help stop the spinning room. In blackness the wild spinning took on new, more intense proportions forcing the assassin's eyes to snap open in irritation. He wasn't entirely sure he was going to be able to continue hanging limply without getting violently sick.

"A shame," Terthus finally replied, "your voice is really nothing special."

The assassin found the answer baffling, but replied with deep sarcasm. "You may never fully appreciate how damaging I find your censure."

"Ah," the voice thief responded, "but very suited to dry repartee. Now, if you are here to demand my allegiance, why did you attack me?"

"You began a spell," Entreri returned. "I was defending myself."

It was strange to hear a markedly feminine voice laughing in conjunction with Terthus' masculine features. The hand left Entreri's dagger, instead snagging the material covering his face.

"You were trying to kill me," the mage corrected. He tugged one end of the cloth free and undid the turban ungently. The circular motion transported Entreri's vertigo to all new depths, making him almost unbearably nauseous. He barely registered the feel of the head cloth completely falling away; his head felt even more like it was in the middle of a powerful dust devil.

"But that's not particularly important," Terthus went on. He lifted Entreri's scarf up to his face to stem the tide of blood the assassin's dagger had released from the man's lip. When next he spoke, his stolen voice was slightly muffled. "Release the dagger and have a civil conversation with me and I'll consider talking to you about this guild's ridiculous demands."

Entreri wasn't about to release his hold on the dagger. He felt disturbingly helpless; every move he made the vertigo worse. He couldn't get his bearings, could only trust gravity to point him down. "Restore my balance and I'll release the dagger."

Koedrobo responded with an inelegant clucking noise. "I have no intention of keeping it. I have one similar in looks, but far more useful in nature. If you survive my interest, I'll return your blade to you. Must we do things the hard way?"

The stubborn man wanted to assert some semblance of control on the situation by snarling 'yes,' but then he heard the pleasant voice intoning strange mumbling, an almost-tune, that preceded magical attacks. Entreri's perfectly honed muscles tensed through their bruises and swellings. If the wizard was going to cast more spells, it only meant he had fewer to use when the killer at last defeated the vertigo.

At the climax of the casting a single pure note pierced the air. Entreri had made a concerted effort to learn a few notes before embarking on his journey across the desert, but this one held no resemblance to what he knew. The immediate result was uncanny: the dagger began vibrating in response to the sound. In fact, many of the lock picks on his person as well as a hidden blade sheathed in his boot vibrated in answer.

As the dagger's vibration picked up, it began to emit a low note of its own. The faster it shook, the higher pitched the key. Entreri wasn't certain what would happen when the dagger's note matched the mage's piercing whine, but from what he'd read in Koedrobo's texts, he had an unpleasant idea. Just as it began to sing as one with the mage's spell, Entreri attempted to slide it across the work bench at Terthus.

The dagger began the journey in one piece, but as its keening became undistinguishable from the magical note hanging in the air, the once fine blade began to crack. Entreri heard, rather than saw, the sudden jangle of notes that announced the shattering of his dagger. The pieces left the table and clattered to the floor in unpleasant defeat. At his wrist, metal pieces were slithering among the folds of his sleeve and quietly slipping onto the stone floor.

"Now, why don't we talk?"

"It would be easier to talk," the assassin relented, switching tactics now he was almost weaponless, "if I wasn't on the verge of purging."

"Agreed," Terthus soothed, finding an unarmed and manacled intruder less threatening. He released the spell that had surgically attacked the assassin's inner ears.

Entreri's relief wasn't quite complete when he felt the strange sensation of movement within his ear, but the slow stop of the terrible spinning helped his frame of mind considerably.

Dark eyes glanced quickly around the room, taking new stock of his situation and possibilities of escape. He was interested in the window the workbench pointed toward, but saw no immediate use for it. The detritus of his dagger was out of his reach and the remains of his steel lock picks were too small to be of much use. Observing the manacle locking his wrist to the table, the frustrated killer saw no visible lock. This, too, was an annoyance, but he didn't let the growing stock of difficulties affect his mind.

His first move was to locate the piece of wax LaValle had prepared for him. It was easy to find, lying on the floor among the bits and pieces of his lock picks. Loath to alert the voice thief to the unimpressive lump of material, Entreri glanced back up at Koedrobo.

The voice thief was of average height, which put him over Entreri's head even if the assassin had been standing tall. He wore the typical styles of a desert mage, but without the ornamentation. Instead of costly ornaments, the man's neutral colored garb was cut of a high grade of silk. Entreri supposed this had more to do with how it sounded as the man moved rather than any real interest in wealth, for Terthus was not highly groomed or fashionably coifed.

His light hazel eyes and silvering black hair did not mark him as extraordinary in looks, though his hairless face seemed something of an oddity in a land where mages seemed obsessed with what little facial growth they could manage. Even LaValle would have been better off without the scraggly beard he kept. Extraordinary or not, the man's intelligent eyes were on the assassin as the killer carefully masked palming the small piece of wax by laying his free hand over it to push himself upright again.

After studying Entreri for a moment, Terthus began what the assassin knew to be an interrogation on the topic of the mage's myopic interest. Typical mage, atypical discipline. "You must be a heartless man to have made it through the desert. Didn't you feel the fear? The instinctual urge to quit the area as soon as possible?"

The voice thief's questioning played entirely to Entreri's advantage. "I felt something, but it wasn't fear." He responded honestly, satisfied to buy time to formulate a new way to kill his mark.

"You are a fascinating specimen of humanity," Terthus remarked in turn, his expression openly intrigued. It was the last look on the strange man's face that Entreri wanted to see in context with an almost seductive woman's voice. Revulsion rose in his throat, but he attributed it to the earlier vertigo.


"Yes, you are the first person I've had make it through a defense that attacks on an instinctual level." The incongruence of the appealing feminine voice only further accentuated the surreal nature of the conversation. "What you reacted to outside was an augmented blanket of noise at the same frequency as the human scream. I combined it with other layers of sound that reduce the mind's capacity to actually realize it is hearing anything at all. If you felt no fear, what did you experience?"

If he had not struggled through several of the nearly incomprehensible texts his mark had produced, Entreri would not have known what the mage was talking about. It galled him that his studies had only effectively prepared him to be conversant on the subject. It further bothered him that he suddenly had an answer to the strange impressions he'd had coming into the tower's shadow.

"I recalled times when I had heard screaming," Entreri remarked obliquely. "Nothing more."

Not just any screaming, but the kind of agonized manipulations of sound that ripped from horrified and despairing throats. Unconsciously, he understood the difference, but he gave it no thought; there was a window nearby, nothing on the table, glass cases with bottles…

"Nothing more?" Koedrobo's female voice pressed, making his interest more than obvious.

Entreri shook his head, pretending to think harder about the question, but in reality taking stock of the equipment he could still feel on his person. A few lock picks were still at his wrist, none of his daggers were an option, if he could lure the mage in range, there was the garotte stowed under his belt. "I don't recall anything else right now. Perhaps you understand the effect violent collisions have on a person's memory?"

The mage reacted smugly to the note of sneering sarcasm the assassin didn't bother to suppress. "You do well to remind me. I have a spell to draw out hidden voices. I usually reserve it for people who easily bend under the weight of foolish secrets. If you have such useful hidden voices, perhaps I shall have no need to kill you."

The assassin snorted derisively. "I am a member of a thieves guild; I assure you, my sins are too many to sort through." Internally, though, he was concerned the foolish mage would soon learn his identity, which Terthus hadn't thought to ask.

Shrugging his thin shoulders, Koedrobo began picking at the scarf he'd confiscated from Entreri in order to staunch the blood from his cut lip. "I will find the most hidden voices; they are always of the most use and the only ones we will hear."

The mage's pale hand plucked a long ebony strand of hair from the scarf and held it up like a trophy before the assassin's gray eyes. "Are you wishing you could chew off your hand right now?"

The severe stare the deadly assassin leveled on the man was far more of an answer than Koedrobo expected. In the dark depths of Entreri's flat gaze he saw death; cold, unfeeling, and inevitable death. Were the voice thief a man more interested in the evil eye rather than the magic of sound, he might have thought to take no chances and end the killer right there. But Terthus did not know death; he was not experienced in ending a life through physical means.

Taking the hair, the voice thief began his casting. Entreri made good on the man's complete distraction and turned to the glass cases lined up on the inner wall. The bottles inside one were topped in red glass. The red stoppers caught his eye and gave him a small amount of hope. Red was almost always a cue for dangerous objects, though he knew it could also stand for passion. He narrowed his eyes, searching for the labels. Perhaps there would be some symbol of danger beyond the red glass tops.

The disciplined assassin's jaw nearly dropped at what he saw. The first label he saw, hand written in perfectly drawn lines, was clearly marked: Siren. In Calishite. Calishite was an important trade tongue and Oberon's scryer did not read it? It was then the depth of Entreri's mistake hit him. It was as Pasha Basadoni had told him a few years prior. Is it not the hired hand's duty to expect information to be faulty and often misleading?

Even as he recalled his mentor's voice, Entreri felt a tangible tug in his head. The feeling was acutely bizarre, because it was not a true physical sensation. He had a sense that it somehow bubbled up from the depths of his self and passed by his recollection of the pasha's words. The assassin stilled, held in place by morbid curiosity. Would he soon hear Pasha Pook hiring him to slaughter one of the Sultan's nephews? He hardly feared the voice thief knowing that, beyond the revelation of his identity. Surely Koedrobo knew of Artemis Entreri and would become more guarded when he realized just who he had manacled to his work bench.

But the sounds that suddenly whispered into the air were not at all what he expected. Entreri barely heard the soft scuff of sandals on tile and a man's even voice speaking in Calishite.

"Don't you want to be good for your father?"

The voice was vaguely familiar, but Entreri was completely convinced it was not his own. He would never say anything as bizarre, barring it was some off color pass phrase.

"No," came a subdued, stubbornly defiant child's voice. Immediately following the perfect sound of rebellion was the unremarkable reply of a burgeoning scuffle.

His first impulse was to smirk at the voice thief's obvious mistake. The voices were not very clear, nor were they recognizable. Entreri was sure if they came from him, it was from an unremembered dream or some clinical observation in his early street years. He simply didn't recall watching some stupid boy being disciplined for irritating someone he couldn't defeat.

But then he heard another disembodied voice and the impression of the familiar face from outside the tower came back to him. "Keep his head down; I don't want to have to explain another bite at the baths."

"You can say it was nothing to waste a prayer on."

The sound of the struggle suddenly escalated into a renewed fury.

That was what Entreri remembered. He remembered the flurry of fists and feet in a struggle never won. A bolt of fury lanced through the assassin's body, increasing his heart rate, flushing his skin with scalding blood. His lifeless gray eyes blazed with an inferno of unmitigated hatred when he brought the awful gaze to meet the mark's image.

Koedrobo was not looking at him; his eyes were closed in order to better hear the revolting scene of a boy receiving traveling papers through every layer of Hell.

"Mother! Get off! Get off! I'll kill you! I'll--! "

Entreri didn't hear anything. An instant before his heart had lit a demonic conflagration within him. Now his mind was dumping ice from the frozen wastes of his soul directly into his veins. He had work to do. Work. He had a mark to kill, crystal bottles to collect, an escape to effect, and control to reclaim. There was no room for sentimentality or emotion; there was only the deadly work at which he excelled and kept him the master of his own fate.

Without thought, he lifted his free wrist up to his face and withdrew the lock pick with the most mass with his teeth. He dropped the implement into the air and plucked it out of freefall in the next instant. Then, the cold-blooded killer turned to eye the glass cabinet. All he wanted was one word of two possibilities. One bottle would do. Chances were not good that either label would be seen, but he didn't care.

Meanwhile, the voice thief's face had drained of blood, suddenly realizing what he was hearing. His hazel eyes opened wide in shock and his hands cut through the air in a motion all Calishites recognized as a 'no deal' gesture. The audible scene ceased as a sudden shriek of pain, rage, and despair filled the room. He was a selfish man, yes, and quite comfortable with his vices, but not a man that took lightly the kind of horror he'd brought snaking into his outer work room's air.

The voice thief knew neither of the adult voices bore much resemblance to the voice of the man he'd manacled to one of his work benches. Unless the man had witnessed the foul act and stood by doing nothing, the child's unbroken voice could be his. Koedrobo had heard many hidden voices in his career, but most spoke of back room deals and back stabbing secrets. He couldn't understand why a thief, and most likely a murderer, would suppress this voice more than any betrayal or bloodletting. Moreover, he earnestly did not like the sound of the situation at all. He was not moved to sympathy for the thief, he was disturbed on behalf of a long destroyed child.

The few moments he spent trying to process the disembodied scene were commendable, but ultimately the very thing the assassin needed to make good his short list of needs. Due to the nature of the manacle around his wrist, he could not use any of his lock picks to free the captured hand. Even if he dislocated his thumb, the iron was too snug around his wrist in his weakened condition. The serrated edges would help him tear free, but he knew his limitations and recognized he would need an added push.

Acting as if he owned the room, Entreri twisted his wrist inside the metal restraint to better facilitate his rise onto the work bench. He crouched there, pulling experimentally at the wickedly edged clamp. A minor pain burned a bracelet of red around his wrist, promising brighter jewels of agony should he continue his resistance.

The bold move put Terthus back on guard; he called to mind the limited selection of useful spells he had left. There was a repetitive incantation that lead to hypnosis, a tune with a beat that enslaved the heart; forcing it to beat as fast or slow as desired. There was nothing with an immediate effect available, but the dark man's captured wrist placated any nervous impulses.

"Have you decided to be more helpful by lying down? Please, relax." His stolen voice sounded full of a strange combination of soothing and menacing tones. "You are a specimen of strange possibilities and I think I will not incur your guild's anger by killing you."

The assassin's head bobbed in a nod, but it was in answer to his own calculations. He was on a level with the wide window, halfway between it and the inner wall. Looking back at the voice thief, Entreri masked replacing the wax in his ear by running his hand through his hair, freeing the raven strands from his face for a moment.

"Tell me one thing before I kill you," the calmly serious assassin remarked. "Why do you only use Calishite?"

"Kill me?" Musical laughter broke through the room, but was helpless against the mounting tension. Tension that seemed to radiate from the killer's battered, but ready, body.

Entreri was immune to the incongruent laughter coming from the voice thief's broad face. He only watched the man's face in order to read his lips. He was vaguely interested in the answer, but more interested in taunting him.

Finally, Koedrobo shook his head in honest exasperation. He couldn't imagine why his prisoner would suddenly be so interested in such a random thing. The question seemed harmless enough and it was something he was interested in and, therefore, eager to explain. "There is an inherent poetry in the language that might be connected with the efreet rulers of long ago and an undeniable flowing beauty in the script. What better language to mirror the magnificence of sound?"

"Is all sound magnificent?" A mocking smirk was already on the killer's lips. The wizard had failed to pick up on Entreri's hint and failed, also, to understand the subtle shift that had occurred in their relationship.

"Of course," the man answered immediately, eyebrows drawing down and together in belated suspicion. Still, he could not imagine a battered and manacled man could present him any sort of danger.

The wicked smile and its arrogance melted from Entreri's face, to be replaced by deadly seriousness. He brought up the lock pick for Terthus' perusal; an obvious echo of how the voice thief had earlier presented Entreri with a strand of hair. "Even the sound of breaking glass?"

The voice thief shook his head in confusion. He did not understand what the killer was getting at in the slightest. Not until Entreri snorted in disgust and turned toward the case filled with red-topped bottles.

The skilled assassin brought his arm up to make the nearly impossible throw. He knew the lock pick, though it was heavy for such an implement because it was used for heavy tumblers, was not heavy enough to break through the glass on its own merits. The throw would have to capitalize not just on the force he could lend it, but on perfect trajectory. If his aim deviated even slightly, he wouldn't have another chance.

Just like the day he had killed an older youth with nothing more than a perfectly aimed stone, Entreri had to be perfect. That stone hadn't the mass it needed either, but the precision was there then, too. Entreri raised his arm and counted on the elasticity and power of his youthful muscles to buy his freedom and the wizard's death.

Faster than Terthus could speak a spell or grasp futilely at one of the wands inside his robes, the iron lock pick shot toward the case. The man had warded his cabinets to protect them against volatile sound, but he had never thought to ward them against physical attack. His heart leapt into his throat; he was momentarily paralyzed with apprehension.

To Entreri's intense satisfaction, the lock pick popped through the case with such precision, that it left nothing more than a coin-sized hole in its wake. Furthermore, it cracked into the very bottle he'd desired to shatter… only to bounce off the container with enough force to rebound back into the glass case's door and spread a spider web of hairline fractures from the point it impacted. Seeing the fractures, Entreri grit his teeth and held his braced position.

A sigh of intense relief filled Koedrobo's lungs and released as laughter in the pleasure of a disaster suddenly diverted. The bottle that had been struck fell over, tapping its glass shelf in a faint sound of protest, and rolled to the side, cracking against the crystal container next to it. Terthus walked past the assassin, intent to see what bottle had been hit and to remove it directly lest the bottle was damaged.

As he neared the case, he noted the sound of tinkling glass followed by a low keening beginning to pierce the air. He frowned minutely and squinted at the fallen bottle. The first thing he spied was the growing fractures spreading across the bottle's crystal face. The next thing he noted, to his full horror, was his own meticulous script: Mandrake. The last thing he saw was the crystal bottle's body blasting apart. Entreri had been hoping for Banshee, for his ear protection had come from one, but had been forced to settle on his second choice instead.

The room was immediately awash in violent motion and terrible vibration, but Entreri heard very little commotion. He had one foot braced on the workbench, the other on the manacle holding him in place. His thumb was already dislocated and his hand positioned to avoid the worst of the eventual carnage when he saw Koedrobo's body headed straight for him.

There was no time to even think of cursing his luck; the assassin simply readjusted his calculations. The wave of force hit him just as he threw his own weight back, timing his body to move with the concussion as much as possible. In response to the sudden straightening of his legs, the blinding hot pain of tearing flesh shot up his arm from his hand. It was a strong reaction, but it didn't seem it would be enough to free him. Fortunately, the impact of the voice thief provided the necessary force needed to peel muscle back in a wet tearing characterized by unthinkable agony. Entreri's unintentional bellow of pain was swallowed whole by the mandrake scream.

Knocked backward as he had planned, the assassin barely managed to twist his body to miss the window sill and slam squarely through the shoddy metal gate. He was propelled into the embrace of the rapidly cooling air shrouding the desert night. Gravity delivered him quickly from the mandrake's scream and ushered him quickly toward the distant desert floor.

Impacting with sand at the end of his fall was every bit as brutally punishing as enduring the voice thief's initial sound attacks. All air fled his lungs despite his catlike ability to land in a manner that would minimize the inevitable damage. After rolling down to the bottom of the tower's sand dune and coming to rest in a small stand of cacti and rocks, Entreri found himself again dazed and momentarily incapable of movement. For several torturously long seconds he writhed without control, gasping hideously as his body fought to pull oxygen into his abused body.

At last, he lay quietly, half covered with sand and tried to pull his thoughts together in order to assess the damage he'd endured. It didn't take him long to realize he was dying. That much seemed certain. It was not the first time he'd had such a thought, but it was not laced with child-like relief as it had been over a decade ago. Back then he'd known little about the complexities of the human body; he had assumed it was pain that killed, not the injury itself.

Lying entangled amongst the prickly cacti, one leg half buried in sand, a smile came to his cracked lips that was equal parts self-deprecation and sarcasm. He finally noticed his arm was thrown across the wheezing form of his dying mark. Entreri wanted to at least slit the man's throat before he also expired. Unfortunately, his weaponry had been destroyed in the tower or lost in the violent expulsion from the window.

All hope was not lost. Entreri remembered the man's reference to a dagger not unlike his own. Hardly stirring, the assassin began patting Koedrobo down, hand clumsily flailing against the man's equally abused form. The assassin mused that he would have been dead sooner had not the wizard decided to go to the glass case instead of killing his prisoner outright. That kept the quirked smile on Entreri's lips, even though he knew the blood flecking them was not from where they were split.

His questing hand hit a wand, but the assassin moved on. Not only was he unsure what kind it was or how to use it, he knew he would derive the most satisfaction from opening up the man's throat to the night. After a few more tries that began to resemble slaps rather than pats, Entreri's knuckles connected with a cloth covered hilt. It was difficult for his numbing fingers to untangle the weapon from the mage's robes and then slide it from the sheath, but he had nothing better to do. The night was too dim to see much of the dagger, but no matter how dull, a pointed end was all he needed.

It never ceased to amuse the assassin that if he were to lose his mind completely and forget his daggers on the streets of Calimport, some fool who didn't know the first thing about sharpening a stick could be counted on to have a weapon on his person. He'd killed innumerable marks by making them victims of their own blades.

"A wizard shouldn't rely on a weapon he doesn't know how to use," the dying assassin advised, moving the blade up to the soft hollow of Koedrobo's struggling throat, just below the larynx. It was the softest place of entrance to the man's major artery, windpipe, and, if he was lucky, spinal cord. As he paused there, he noted blood was trickling from the voice thief's ears and nose; the mandrake's voice was the true killer; not the fall nor the dagger that would hurry death along.

The assassin removed one of the pieces of wax to hear the sound of a woman's mewling whimper as he raised his arm and stabbed the deadly implement down. Entreri took great satisfaction in the easy cut of the weapon; it sank through flesh with an ease that spoke of unnatural sharpness. That satisfaction faded as he felt a corresponding shudder in the weapon and a strong jolt rocked his broken body.

When next the assassin opened his eyes, he was shocked to see glittering stars beyond his dark lashes and the progress the sliver of moon had made across the sky. He'd been out for several hours. Despite again removing one of pieces of banshee earwax, he had no feeling of tension as he had previously in the day. He wondered when the voice thief's bizarre spell had ended. How long would take for deadly animals to move back into the area or scavengers and looters to head for the tower? Could he survive long enough to find out?

His body was stiffening with cold, which he found preferable than stiffening in death. His hand was still wrapped around the dagger he'd plunged into Koedrobo. It was moving slightly, as was his arm as it lay on the corpse. It didn't take him long to realize that the voice thief's whole body was moving.

He moved his head slightly to get a better look at the man's corpse and made out the moonlit form of a pair of young wild dogs scavenging the body. His question had been answered before he'd even posed it. They had already laid open the dead man's stomach and painted their muzzles red with blood. Moved with disgust at the new way he would be forced to die, Entreri sighed. Wild dogs usually moved in packs; he was going to get ripped apart rather than quietly expiring in the sand.

Both dogs froze at the assassin's exhalation, but Entreri was uninterested in waiting for the inevitable attack. He gathered his strength, more than he thought he had any right to, and pulled the dagger from the mage's throat. He reversed the blade and in the same motion, drove it into the closest dog's chest before it could react. The animal shrieked as another jolt traveled down the blade and into Entreri's arm. This time he remained aware and felt the dog's life channeled into his body to charge another round of healing.

The assassin was amazed by the dagger's unusual property. His eyes lit with wicked satisfaction as the other dog leapt at his throat. Yes, Entreri laughed to himself, wild dogs usually traveled in packs. The sooner the others arrived, the sooner he could retrieve what he needed from the tower and return to the Calimport.

For the record, I like Alzadea's dagger origin mo' betta, but I'd already plotted this out before hand. Thanks to Lessie and Alzadea for reviews. I always like getting them.