Important Note: This story was originally posted to Lavender Eyes in January 2005, which is why it is being posted here in its entirety. For those of you who do not read the fanfics at LE, you need to know that this story is a continuation my first trilogy, The Road to Redemption, and begins eight months after its final installation, "The Face of a God."

You are free to read this story as a stand-alone, but I don't recommend it. If you do decide to start here, I warn you that Entreri and Jarlaxle have undergone some character development beyond where they are in "Empty Joys," which means, of course, that they act somewhat differently here than they do in Servant of the Shard and the following two short stories. Also, if you decide to read this story without reading my first three fanfics, I ask that you be patient with my returning original character, Tai Vatoshie (16-year-old cleric of Hoar, the god of vengeance; human male).

"The Specters of Our Pasts" draws upon "Empty Joys," "That Curious Sword," and Servant of the Shard, and it also refers to the story "The Third Level," in which we learn that as a child, Entreri was sexually abused. Knowledge of RAS's short stories, therefore, would be helpful for reading this fanfic.

I have chosen not to include the events of "Wickless in the Nether" in my fanfic universe. I built my fanfics on SotS, and I took these characters forward on one possible road they could have chosen. Some of what I did bears a resemblance to what RAS did, and the rest is AU as of "Wickless." So please enjoy these stories as an alternative fate for our beloved characters--a path they could have taken but one RAS didn't choose to explore.

Descent into Darkness: The Specters of Our Pasts

By Ariel

Description: "I am as intrinsically tied to and trapped by Menzoberranzan as Zaknafein once was."—J.B. A threat to the throne of Bregan D'aerthe has arisen: a drow who wishes not only to kill Jarlaxle—and Entreri—but to toy with them first. Both Jarlaxle and Entreri will have to face their pasts and inner selves. Drama/Action/Angst. Rated M for graphic violence.

Disclaimer: Jarlaxle, Artemis Entreri, and all other recognizable characters belong to R. A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast; likewise, Aedelvana and Uhrieved Hartshorn are the property of Wizards of the Coast. The snippets of poetry are from the poem and poet cited at the bottom of the page. No challenge to the copyrights is intended or should be inferred.

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets . . ." (1)

Chapter One

The 29th of Ches, 1369 D.R.
The Year of the Gauntlet

The dusty streets of Zelbross wound around the sagging taverns in such narrow loops and crooks that the eye could not follow them. The palest pink of a dying sunset reflected off dented gutters, but the approaching night's shadow cut off the glow mere inches below the roofs, leaving the impression that the buildings had been decapitated by a blade of darkness. A weak breeze kicked up swirls of dirt which snaked about the shiny boots of the street's single occupant, who stepped into an alley to conceal himself. Distant shouts of laughter and discordant music echoed faintly through the buildings as a tavern door opened, yet the sounds were only subconsciously noted by the waiting elf.

Although no further sound intruded upon the gloom, Jarlaxle instinctively turned toward the back of the alley and smiled as a psionic door opened and Kimmuriel Oblodra stepped into the shadows. As was typical of their meetings, the drow bowed to Jarlaxle and waited for him to speak first.

"My item?" the mercenary asked.

"Of course." Kimmuriel held out his hand, offering for inspection a thin golden necklace with a dragon pendent.

Jarlaxle accepted the piece and examined it carefully. "And you were successful in the enchantment?"

The slender drow feigned offense. "It was not as challenging as other items you have requested." He held up a second item. "The ring, however, was slightly more complex."

Jarlaxle secured the necklace around his neck before taking the simple silver band from Kimmuriel. Again, he inspected the piece. He looked up at Kimmuriel and grinned, adjusting his eye patch—over his right eye today—with his free hand. "I assume that it ultimately proved unproblematic for one such as yourself."

Kimmuriel bowed in response to the compliment.

"Tell me, what news?" The mercenary slipped the ring onto an already-adorned finger and folded his arms across his chest in a bored manner.

"I have dispatched a scout party to the surface," Kimmuriel said, sounding none-too-pleased.

"You? Extend to the surface? I would have never imagined such a thing!"

Kimmuriel frowned as Jarlaxle laughed. "Yes, unfortunately. However, recent inquiry into a magical item that a merchant sold in Menzoberranzan led me to believe that there may be profit involved." He smirked. "And with little human contact, I might add." Jarlaxle raised one white eyebrow at that comment, and after a moment, Kimmuriel looked as though he'd swallowed a jar's worth of spiders. "A bonus for me," he added belatedly.

Jarlaxle chuckled over the other's discomfort. "And what profit would this be?"

"Intelligence suggests that some vegetation in the High Forest has receded, revealing a section of ancient ruins. Supposedly, the magical item originated from these ruins, and the merchant claimed to be able to secure more artifacts. Of further interest was the power of the sample piece."

"So we are going to secure these potentially powerful artifacts instead," Jarlaxle concluded.

"Precisely." Kimmuriel cocked his head. "Perhaps you remember Mordecai, the young weapons master of House Tuin'Tarl whom we . . . acquired?"

Jarlaxle's grin turned wolfish. "I do, indeed. He complained so that the Calishites stank."

Kimmuriel's nose wrinkled as he seemed to recall a memory. "Yes. He is leader of the scout party." The drow joined in the grin. "We will see how he performs. He has mentioned several times of late that he shall kill both you and me and take leadership of Bregan D'aerthe."

The mercenary leader chuckled. "Ah. And I shall bury his bones along with all the others who came before him."

Although the grin remained on Kimmuriel's face, this passing reminder of his leader's dangerousness stole the gleam from his eyes. "Indeed." The grin vanished also. "I must tell you, Mordecai keeps his thoughts carefully still when in my presence—I rarely pick up any stray thoughts from him. However, I sense something from him, perhaps an unusual intensity, and he has been quite boastful of late."

"And so things remain as they have always been—and always will be." Jarlaxle sighed and dismissed Kimmuriel with a wave of his hand, although he secretly stored away the information, just in case. "Perhaps someday you will have something of genuine interest to report."

After a final bow to his leader, Kimmuriel left as he came, in the whisper of a thought, and Jarlaxle slipped into the street to wind his way to the musty hotel that would be his home for a night.

Meanwhile Artemis Entreri, carrying an overfilled pack, made his way out of the small merchant district. Here in the wealthier section of Zelbross, cobblestones covered the street, but neither the assassin's footsteps nor his cumbersome load made a sound. In one exhaustive sweep, Entreri had restocked his and his companion's supplies while Jarlaxle had claimed to run an "errand."

In the fading light, the street—which had only a half-hour before been bustling with shouting people and barking dogs—had grown deserted. Now shadows stretched their black bodies across the cobblestones to arch up building fronts and to swallow vacant booths and people alike in the darkness. The few remaining customers skittered out of the street toward the taverns or residential section. Likely they feared another orc or goblin attack, given what Entreri had learned of recent events, but the assassin eased into the shadows with a smirk. Charon's Claw hung on his left hip, and his prized dagger on his right, and no orc or goblin would survive more than a few moments against him.

Entreri turned the corner onto the dusty street that would lead him to his inn, and out of habit, he slipped into the darkest shadows next to the buildings. Unfortunately, Entreri's inn was far from the town's main thoroughfare. The only decent establishment in town had rejected them upon seeing Jarlaxle's ebony skin; in fact, when the patrons had seen the drow, a fight had nearly broken out. It was the same everywhere they went, but here in The North the prejudice was worse: Entreri and Jarlaxle had been run out of towns, ambushed by angry citizens, and assaulted by town guards in several places they'd stopped. The assassin found that his mild irritation over the inconvenience was turning into something deeper. On one hand, he understood the people's hatred of the drow, but on the other hand, he found himself growing increasingly angry on Jarlaxle's behalf. It wasn't that the mercenary wasn't dangerous—for he certainly was—but he was too wise and diplomatic to harm anyone without good cause. Today, the assassin had almost spoken up for Jarlaxle and defended his reputation to the inn's patrons; however, when he'd realized what he was about to say, his own shock stopped him. Still, when Entreri thought upon the incident he felt irritated, and he wondered, just for an instant, if Drizzt Do'Urden's friends had suffered the same sense of frustration.

The thought was promptly stomped upon and killed.

As Entreri approached the final turn before his inn, a cloaked figure kneeling in the street caught his attention. Even in the growing darkness, the assassin could tell that the person was leaning over a small animal. As he grew nearer, he could see that the person was actually a male wood elf, and the animal was a solid white cat. The elf reached out a hand and held it over the cat, which lay limply on its side, and muttered a few words. After a few moments, the cat sat up, and the elf looked in Entreri's direction.

"The creature was trampled by a horse," the elf said.

Entreri had not realized that he'd halted and was staring until the elf spoke. He blinked, surprised at himself, but he knew something must have struck him wrong if he'd automatically stopped. "I see."

The elf smiled innocently at him and began petting the now-purring cat, but every warrior's sense the assassin possessed screamed at him. Something was definitely not right. Entreri glanced over the slender elf but saw nothing; although the elf's hood was down, his black cloak effectively covered the rest of his body and hid any weapons he might be carrying.

Suddenly, Entreri realized that the entire street was deserted except for himself, the elf, and the cat. "How kind of you to heal it," the assassin finally continued in a neutral tone.

The elf smiled at him again, although the warmth did not reach his eyes, and picking up the white cat, he stood. "Thank you, but healing it was a simple task, and it is too beautiful and graceful of a creature to allow die."

Entreri nodded absently, his sixth sense still yelling at him to either flee or fight. He began walking once more but kept himself ready in case he was attacked.

"What ever is the matter, dear sir?" the elf called after him.

Entreri stopped and glanced back at the elf, who grinned wryly at him, his blue eyes gleaming with dark amusement. "Nothing," the assassin answered. "Why would there be? If you choose to expend your energy healing a cat, it is none of my concern." Even as he spoke, the shadows around Entreri seemed to creep forward and encircle him.

Evil. That was the sensation Entreri felt, he realized—an aura of pure evil radiated from the elf, an aura which reminded him of the lich he and Jarlaxle had faced some ten months earlier. What was this elf that he exuded such an air of darkness? The assassin prepared to drop his sack and draw his weapons, but the elf merely snickered and stepped away into the shadows. The assassin remained still and focused all of his senses on detecting further movement. After several minutes, he decided the elf had left and turned toward his inn.

A pair of glowing red eyes watched Entreri from the shadows as he departed. The mysterious elf smiled to himself and kissed the soft, furry head of the animal reclining in his arms. The human had been more discerning than he'd predicted. No matter. The important thing was that his information had been correct: Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle were indeed in Zelbross. The elf grinned wickedly. Fate had blessed him.

When Entreri reached the inn, he once again scanned his surroundings, but finding nothing, he shrugged and entered, making his way to the room he and Jarlaxle would share. Of course, he'd left the room trapped, but disengaging the complex traps took the talented assassin mere seconds, then he was inside dumping his sack and shedding his hat, cloak, and belt pack.

The dingy room had little to offer, a fact which hardly registered upon the assassin. An oil lamp struggled against the shadows blossoming in the corners, but since the chill of the spring evening was not enough to invite a fire, Entreri let the darkness hedge in and hide the dented walls and cracked window. He lay on his bed, propped his feet on the footboard, and set to polishing his jeweled dagger. The assassin found the activity plenty entertaining, if not downright relaxing. When by himself, Entreri found it impossible to be bored, for he apparently lacked the capacity to feel ennui unless he were being subjected to the endless babble of an annoying other.

The elf who entered their room ten minutes later, however, had been elevated out of "annoying other" status, so his sudden return did not irritate the assassin in the slightest. In fact, Entreri reacted as though Jarlaxle had never left. "So do we continue in the general direction of Waterdeep?" he asked, not looking up from his dagger.

Jarlaxle hung his cloak and wide-rimmed purple hat upon the coat stand before turning to face the assassin. "'Good evening, Jarlaxle, I am glad to see you returned safely,'" the drow said with light sarcasm. "'Why thank you, dear Artemis, and a good evening to you as well.'"

"So do we continue in the direction of Waterdeep tomorrow?" Entreri repeated with a smirk.

"Yes, we do," the elf replied, approaching the bed. Although Entreri stopped polishing the dagger and looked at him, he didn't sit up. "For you," Jarlaxle said, pulling a silver band off his finger and tossing it to Entreri, who reflexively caught it.

The assassin stared with a frown at the ring and finally sat up. "A ring?" He snorted. "Are we to be wed, then?"

Jarlaxle laughed. "Ah! You are developing a sense of humor." He settled into the room's only chair—a rickety piece with stained cushions—and smiled. "I think you'll find it of use one day."

Entreri swallowed a sigh and gazed at the elf from under half-hooded eyes. The Great Enigma speaks. Listen one, listen all. But keeping the sarcasm to himself, he slipped the band onto the middle finger of his left hand. "Why Waterdeep?" he asked for the hundredth time this trip as he lay down and resumed his chore.

"Perhaps we should head north to Silverymoon instead," was the drow's elusive answer.

"You do realize that drow cannot enter Silverymoon on a whim?" Entreri asked. "Not even you have that much power or charm."

"Such a biting tongue!" But Jarlaxle's smile faded a touch, leaving him seeming lost in thought.

Several minutes passed in comfortable silence as Entreri considered telling Jarlaxle about the odd elf he'd seen. Ultimately, though, he dismissed the incident. "Any news of interest from Kimmuriel?" he asked snidely, for of course Jarlaxle had given no such reason for his excursion.

"Only that yet another drow wishes me dead," Jarlaxle answered, flippant.

Entreri admired his gleaming blade. "Such fools there are among you."

Jarlaxle's smile returned at the indirect, and perhaps unintentional, compliment. "Why, thank—" He stopped mid-sentence, a calculating look blooming upon his face.

"That's never good," Entreri remarked, noting the expression. By this point, Jarlaxle's grin had turned wicked. "In fact," the assassin continued, deadpan, "that is very bad, indeed."

"Oh, but it could be good. Kimmuriel mentioned some ruins which we could—" Jarlaxle stopped and blinked. "Wait. Did you just tease me?"


"Yes, I believe you did!"


Jarlaxle laughed. "Oh, but I've caught you this time!"

"I am still holding my dagger," the assassin said.

A knock sounded at the door, and since the mercenaries were not expecting company, they immediately jumped to their feet, Entreri with his weapon ready.

"Master Entreri? Master Jarlaxle?" called a voice through the door. "Are you there? It is Tai Vatoshie."

"Tai?" Jarlaxle repeated, and Entreri shared in his shock. They hadn't seen the priest of Hoar in over half a year, and now he'd shown up at their doorstep? Not to mention that Tai had been supposedly headed to Silverymoon when they parted, and that would place him hundreds of miles away from their current location.

"Please allow me to enter," answered the familiar voice. "It's urgent!"

Entreri and Jarlaxle traded glances. Trouble, it seemed, was not finished with them for the evening.

(1)— T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." All quotes used at the beginning of subsequent chapters are by the same poet and from the same poem.

A/N: As always, I want to go ahead and thank darkhelmetj and Matt for beta reading my story. Thank you—your help has been priceless!

I've been forewarned by a beta reader that the title I chose is similar to something that has been published. I've tried to alter the title slightly for that reason, although I'm not breaking copyright law because of the difference in medium and because this is nonprofit. However, I wanted to acknowledge my awareness.

Thank you to all who review!