A/N: I'm not sure what happened—I don't remember now—but I realized this chapter was missing. So I've reposted it.
Original post date: 9/30/06
Part III: Assassins Do Not Play Flutes
We Are Now a Trilogy!
Description: Entreri and Jarlaxle experience extreme fallout from their previous adventure. Situational Humor, Wackiness, and Insanity. Vaguely plotless.
Disclaimer: These two mercenaries belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast. It is not my intention to trample any copyrights. No profit is being made; I'm stuck with Ramen and rice.
A/N: More insanity! No, this is not slash or even slash related—don't get confused by the dress or its resulting problems. Takes place a month after the events in "Of Music and Men" and ten days after "Bad Day for Ballads." Jarlaxle still has his long hair. I reiterate (yet again): vaguely OOC. For a third time, you have been warned. Follows "Wickless in the Nether" but ignores PotWK.
12th of Eleint, 1368 D.R.
Entreri was damned. He was sure of it.
The assassin awakened to find a smiling drow leaning over his bed, poking him in the ribs. "You slept through my entering the room?" Jarlaxle asked. "That is unheard of! Did you acquire some female company after I left last night?"
Entreri sat up, rubbed his eyes, and considered the hideous attire of his friend: a canary yellow dress with crimson bows, a purple hat with a monstrous plume, and five dozen golden necklaces. "Looking at you puts me off of female company for days at a time."
Jarlaxle clucked his tongue. "Shouldn't your expansive human male virility overcome such obstacles?"
The assassin snorted but didn't deign to reply. The tortures which had followed him for the last tenday fell into a category all their own: Jarlaxle had sung a bawdy ballad to a baroness, for which they'd been chased halfway across Damara, so now when they left Heliogabalus on a mission for their dragon employers, disguises were necessary. Even worse, Jarlaxle had insisted on keeping his disguise, which was that of a fashion-challenged lady.
"Arise and smile!" Jarlaxle exclaimed in the face of Entreri's silence. "Today will be exciting and profitable!" He chuckled and swept across the room, as though drawing attention to the yellow dress, and stopped only to glance out the window.
"Exciting and profitable?" Entreri echoed. "Don't you mean suicidal and painful? Since I have begun working with you, a day doesn't pass that I am not stabbed, burned, electrocuted, attacked by dragons, chased by liches, or pursued by the forces of 'good' and law for your misconduct."
"My misconduct?" Jarlaxle said, turning away from the small window. "You are an assassin and a thief."
"With greater sense than yours."
"Less imagination," the elf corrected.
"My feet are on the ground," Entreri replied. "Your head lives on the moon. Besides, it was not my thievery that had us chased across Damara. It was your overactive nether region." The assassin climbed out of bed and began pulling on his clothes.
Jarlaxle simply laughed. "Are you calling me a whore again?"
Entreri jerked his shirt on and glared at the drow. "Of course you're a whore. You've had sex with how many women? 1000? No, that can't be right. 2000? No." He snapped up his weapon belt and secured it around his waist. "Even if I estimate that you've been alive for 500 years and assume you'd only had one woman per tenday, which I find unlikely—" He paused, calculating in his head. "We'll just say 36 tendays times 500 years. That would be . . . 18,000 women!"
The elf grinned and gestured at the yellow dress and its petticoats. "I'm honored that you have such faith in me even when I'm dressed in such a manner."
Entreri snorted. "If you actually became a female, even for a day, you'd have sex with the first man you met just to see what it felt like as a woman."
"But of course!" the drow exclaimed. "And what an adventure that would be."
The assassin stared at the drow with half-hooded eyes. "As long as you're dressed as a female, some man might try to woo you anyway if you're not careful."
"Well, I am beautiful regardless of what clothes I wear."
Entreri sighed. "Just tell me what job you have lined up for us. No one should ever have to tolerate drow antics on an empty stomach."
Four hours later, Entreri and his "female" companion entered the small town of Ziran in eastern Damara. The dragon sisters had sent them on this mission with the hope of securing The Twin Hearts—two fist-sized rubies. The Valterra Ruins, which stood on the outskirts of Ziran, were rumored to be the resting place of these prized jewels, but the mercenaries would have to inquire among the locals for information about the ancient, crumbling city. So they set their sights on the town's only tavern with plans to question the barkeep, barmaids, or customers—whoever seemed willing and able to give accurate information.
However, when Entreri saw the tavern's sign, he stopped dead in his tracks and refused to go any further.
Jarlaxle glanced at his friend curiously. "What ails you, abbil?"
"The Red Dragon?" Entreri said, pointing at the sign. "I am not going into a tavern named The Red Dragon!"
"An unfortunate name, I agree, especially for a land that was once terrorized by dragons," Jarlaxle said. "However, I'm sure it's actually a very inviting establishment."
Entreri snorted, gesturing at the brightly painted sign, which depicted a hunching red dragon with narrowed eyes, smoky nostrils, and fire leaping from its mouth. "That is not inviting! That dragon wants to burn the patrons into cinders, not ask them in for a drink."
Jarlaxle laughed. "Perhaps you are right, but we have little choice. Come, my friend!"
"You and your damn dragons," Entreri muttered, following the drow.
As the mercenaries entered the establishment, the assassin had a now-familiar moment of distress. Something about being associated with the disguised drow made his stomach clench. Objectively, Jarlaxle could look worse: the drow had temporarily stowed his hat and eye patch in one of his inter-dimensional pouches and used a glamour to lighten his skin and eyes and darken his hair. The result was a believable (if still gaudy) elf female. Yet Entreri still had the sensation that the patrons would look at the drow, immediately become nauseated, and in short order throw the two mercenaries out (or die trying).
Then again, Jarlaxle was likely banking on the assassin's discomfort. Entreri held in a sigh and followed the drow as "she" chose a table. Inadvertently, he counted the number of tables and chairs in the room along the way.
A barmaid noted them and came to their table. "Welcome to The Red Dragon! What would you like?"
"For you to change the name of your tavern," Entreri replied with a smirk.
"Two wines and a—ah—moment of your time," Jarlaxle said in a high pitched voice.
The assassin raised an eyebrow over the drow's verbal glitch, but the woman simply nodded and headed to the bar.
"Tell me you didn't just start to woo that woman," Entreri hissed.
"This dress is a curse," Jarlaxle moaned dramatically. "I should shed it immediately."
"Certainly not," the assassin replied. "I know I do not wish to see you naked, and I doubt the women present would be as enamored of the show as you believe."
"But I began applying my golden body art yesterday," the drow said, ignoring the insult. "Don't you wish to see it?"
Since Entreri knew Jarlaxle was joking, he didn't bother to reply. Instead, he focused on the returning barmaid, who he proceeded to question at length. The barmaid kept looking at Jarlaxle during the conversation and frowning furiously at the assassin's questions, as if to say You would drag such a dainty lady through dangerous ruins? By the end of the conversation, Entreri was feeling a bit miffed, though he strived not to show it.
"I'm going to speak with the barkeep," the assassin said, further disgruntled by Jarlaxle's barely contained mirth. And he proceeded to do just that, wringing as much information from the tavern owner as he could. All seemed reasonably well until Entreri turned to head back to his table. To his utter horror, the assassin saw a man bending over Jarlaxle's hand.
The man, obviously thrown by the glamour, had apparently decided Jarlaxle really was a female. Even as Entreri neared, the man kissed the back of Jarlaxle's hand and blushed. Given the man's fair complexion, which matched his pale blond hair, the blush stood out like a sunburn.
"Excuse me, my lady, but may I have your name?" the man asked.
"But I like my name!" the amused drow replied in a decidedly feminine voice. "I wish to keep it."
The man's blush deepened, running up his face to disappear under his hair, but he didn't relinquish Jarlaxle's hand. "No, I mean would you tell me your name. I am Gregory McFellan."
The assassin rolled his eyes.
"I am only teasing," Jarlaxle said, dipping his chin in a coy manner. "My name is Helena."
Helena? Entreri thought, increasing his pace toward the table.
Apparently seeing the frowning assassin headed his way, Gregory squeezed Jarlaxle's hand and dropped it. "Are you—I mean, is this your husband?"
Entreri halted in his tracks, so horrified by the assumption that he couldn't take another step. Jarlaxle burst into peels of laughter.
"No, not at all," the drow finally managed to say. "We are merely friends."
Gregory, his gaze sweeping down Jarlaxle's figure—or lack thereof—seemed relieved. "I am profoundly glad to hear that. May I call upon you, then?"
Galvanized into action, Entreri strode forward and grabbed Jarlaxle's arm. "No, you may not."
Gregory narrowed his eyes at his "competition," and Jarlaxle nearly choked trying not to laugh. The assassin, however, was not amused and jerked the drow to his feet.
"Say farewell to your would-be lover," Entreri snarled at the drow. "We are leaving."
Gregory drew himself up to his full six-foot height and put his hand on his sword hilt. "Any man who would treat a lady so roughly does not deserve her company. Unhand her at once, sir, or I shall be forced to call you out!"
Entreri stared at the man, momentarily stunned by the ridiculousness of it. A gentleman just threatened to duel me over the treatment of a cross-dressing male drow? The assassin decided the gods were especially bored this day.
Jarlaxle, of course, was not above playing up the dramatic potential of the scene. He placed his hand on Entreri's arm and peered into his face. "No, please!" he said in a falsetto voice. "Do not draw your swords over me."
The assassin narrowed a glare of such utter death at Jarlaxle that the elf's newly-grown hair should have curled into ringlets. "I will not draw a sword over you, but I will draw a sword and put it in you."
"Of all the—!" Gregory choked in anger and unsheathed his sword. "I challenge you to a duel of honor!"
Entreri's lip curled, and he released Jarlaxle to reach for his weapons. The drow, apparently deciding that blood-letting would damage their profitable mission, rushed to Gregory's side and grabbed his arm.
"You must forgive my friend," Jarlaxle said is his feminine voice. He opened his eyes wide and pushed his fake breasts against the man's arm. "He is in a terrible humor and is often caustic in his remarks, but truly, he would never harm me."
Entreri ground his teeth together, but his practical side won out. They might need to return to the tavern and collect more information, after all.
"He threatened to kill you," Gregory said, grasping Jarlaxle's hand.
"Only in jest, I assure you," the drow said, bestowing upon the man one of his most charming smiles.
The gentleman hesitated momentarily, but then the faint blush returned to his cheeks. "Are you sure you will be safe?" he asked, kissing the back of Jarlaxle's hand.
Entreri snorted in disgust.
"I promise you." Jarlaxle's smile remained dazzling.
"Very well." Gregory released the drow with obvious reluctance and sheathed his sword. He watched narrowly as the assassin took 'her' arm and walked away.
"Although a real gentlemen would not turn his back on a challenge!" Gregory called coldly after the assassin.
Entreri stopped at the door and smiled back at the man. The coldness and violence contained in that smile could have coated the floor in ice. "Then you should thank your god I'm not a gentlemen."
Several miles outside of town, Entreri finally slowed his pace and led his companion into a clearing.
"You have to admit it was amusing," Jarlaxle said.
Entreri's glare shot forth acidic arrows.
"Where is your sense of humor!" Jarlaxle replied to that Look. "Whenever would an honorable human so defend a drow?"
Entreri's glare intensified to the lightning bolt stage.
Noting the increased anger, the drow smiled and put his hand on his abdomen. "I believe I feel my liver cooking inside my body."
"I'll be eating your liver if you don't desist," the assassin replied. "Truly, Jarlaxle, that man was ready to carry you upstairs and ravish you! And when he lifted your dress and found the wrong body parts, what do you think would have happened?"
The drow merely shrugged. "I would not have let him touch me."
"Really?" the assassin drawled. Then, like the snap of his fingers, suddenly Entreri became someone else: his facial expression, body language, and entire demeanor changed so completely that Jarlaxle blinked.
Entreri tossed his cloak over his shoulder and swept across the clearing toward the drow. With a stunning smile that lit his eyes, the assassin grasped Jarlaxle's hand and kissed his palm. In a smooth, cultured voice, he asked, "Then why did you let him kiss your hand?"
Jarlaxle nearly stumbled backward he was so shocked. His mouth fell slightly open, and an entire chest of gold could have been shoved under his nose without his noticing it. "I—I had to allow him that gesture because I was convincing him not to fight you."
Entreri dropped the drow's hand and stepped back. Immediately, the cynical assassin was back in place with his usual smirk. "You would do well to curb your dramatic impulses for the rest of the day," he said, patting the flute which hung on his belt. "I've discovered some wonderfully shrill notes to play."
Jarlaxle merely returned the smirk, but inwardly, he reminded himself that Entreri was indeed a consummate actor. Jarlaxle might engage his theatrical skills more often, but the assassin was no less talented. The man could become anyone he wished when he needed to gather information or affect an escape. And, apparently, Entreri was willing to use his acting skills to turn the tables on the drow.
Strangely pleased with the reminder of his clever friend's skills, Jarlaxle proceeded to change clothes so the two could fight their way through the monster-infested ruins and claim the delicious gems protected there.
Dawn was breaking before the two mercenaries returned to the clearing. Both were tired and scratched-up, but Jarlaxle grinned from ear-to-ear like a child with a new toy.
"They're beautiful," the drow said for the hundredth time.
"The rubies or the sapphires?" the assassin asked, wondering which one Jarlaxle was exclaiming over now.
The drow raised one dainty finger. "The sapphires do not exist. We didn't see anything except the rubies and some cobwebs."
Entreri snorted. "You are easily amused."
"Better than being a little hovering storm cloud, like someone I know," Jarlaxle replied, opening one of his pouches of holding. He reached into the inter-dimensional space and pulled out a wand. With a small frown, he reached in again. Out came a saddle.
"A saddle?" Entreri said, surprised. He'd assumed the drow was retrieving the hideous dress so he could don his disguise again.
"Not what I was after," the drow murmured. He reached in once more. Out came a bottle of wine, followed by crossbow. Then came a bar of soap and a rug.
The drow was looking distinctly ruffled. "I fear we may be in a wild magic zone. I never have such problems with my pouch!"
Entreri considered the way two of Jarlaxle's wands had misfired the night before and was forced to agree. Still, that didn't answer the question of why the drow carried a rug with him. "You keep strange items with you."
"I come prepared." Jarlaxle fished through the pouch.
"A rug?" Entreri insisted, incredulous.
The drow didn't reply, however. Instead, he pulled a small fox statue from the pouch, then a seashell and a woman's undergarments.
"I won't even ask," the assassin muttered.
Jarlaxle continued his search, his frown more pronounced now. He retrieved a bolt of shimmering cloth, a footstool, and a potted cactus.
Entreri merely sank his head in his hands. "I don't want to know."
A happy exclamation reclaimed the assassin's attention. He glanced up in time to see the drow pull out a canary yellow dress with crimson bows, followed by yellow slippers and white petticoats. With a sigh, Entreri decided he would burn the dress and replace it with a solid black one. Or perhaps a grey one. Whatever he could find that would be drab and offensive to the drow.
With a turn of a ring, Jarlaxle once again disguised his hair, eyes, and skin. Then he set to work changing his clothes. Entreri studied the bark of a nearby tree until the transformation was complete, then returned his attention to his companion. The drow was pointing to his padded chest.
"If we have more trouble with Gregory, I have the perfect solution," Jarlaxle said. He pointed at the intricate silver diamond design which was stitched in a strategically unfortunate place on each breast. "Do you see the diamonds?"
Entreri had been trying not to look. "Yes, I fear so."
Jarlaxle grinned. "I have enchanted them to work as magical runes. Any male who stares at them for too long becomes hypnotized and highly suggestible."
"Hypnotized?" the assassin repeated. "You're using your 'breasts' as weapons?"
The elf laughed. "Certainly! I use my flawless stomach muscles and natural handsomeness as a weapon when I am dressed normally. Why should I not use my feminine 'assets'?"
A sharp pain lanced through Entreri's head, and he reached up to massage the bridge of his nose.
"Now, let us return to the tavern and have breakfast!" the drow said, all cheer.
As usual, Entreri found his appetite less than healthy.
Entering the town provided to be unproblematic, but when the mercenaries walked into the tavern, they found Gregory McFellan awaiting them at a corner table. He immediately rushed to Jarlaxle's side and grabbed 'her' hand.
"I am relieved to see you safe and well," Gregory said. "I had feared for you at the hands of—" He glanced over the assassin with distaste. "—this man."
Jarlaxle carefully retracted his hand. "As I assured you I would be, I am unharmed."
Entreri ignored them and moved toward the bar. Jarlaxle got himself into this mess, and now he could get himself out of it.
"You are beautiful and graceful!" Gregory continued.
"Yes, quite true," the drow agreed easily.
"So you should not be resigned to such foul companion!"
Entreri ordered an ale and then turned to watch the spectacle.
"Perhaps," Jarlaxle said with the hint of a smile. "But he is extremely talented, and I could do not without his services."
Entreri nearly choked on his own breath. Didn't Jarlaxle know how sexual that sounded? Gregory would get the wrong idea!
All the color had drained from said gentlemen's face. "Services?" he whispered, although Entreri's keen ears still picked up on the word. "Surely, dear lady, you do not mean to say that the man is your—um—male concubine?"
Entreri was charging both of them before the sentence was even completed. Gregory took to the challenge willingly, drawing his sword and grinning at the assassin.
"So you do have a shred of honor!" Gregory said. "Very well, then. Let us duel!"
Jarlaxle was trying to catch the man's attention, likely to draw his eyes toward the magical runes on his fake breasts, but Gregory's gaze had suddenly become fixed on Entreri's belt. The assassin had tossed his cloak back as he reached to draw his weapons, and the man seemed undone by what he saw there.
Gregory stared up at the assassin. "A flute? You play a flute?"
Entreri completed his actions, drawing Charon's Claw and the vampiric dagger. "Are you going to comment on my pastimes?" The sentence declared the danger of that course of action.
Although he kept his sword raised, Gregory chanced a look at Jarlaxle. "My apologies. I see that you are right. Your friend does indeed have a softer side." The man backed off a step and then sheathed his weapon.
Ice crystals formed in all the drinks around the room as Entreri brought his death glare to bear upon the man. "Magical instruments indicate nothing about my personality."
But Gregory was patting Jarlaxle's arm. "I suppose he wears the vicious front in order to protect you, but clearly—"
Entreri decided to carve the man up into nice plump steaks.
Jarlaxle had quite a problem on his hands, but he managed to tow the assassin away from the town and leave Gregory . . . well, still breathing, at least.
"I have never seen anyone touchier about his hidden humanity," the drow sighed.
"And I have never seen a sexpot more willing to hide his manhood," Entreri snapped. "You do realize that the longer you wear that dress, the fewer women you'll attract?"
And so it was that one lady disappeared and was replaced by a bald-headed drow with a bare midriff.
A/N: Thank you forever to my wonderful beta reader, Darkhelmetj. Poor you, stuck sifting through my insanity! Thank you also to all who read and review.