"I really don't think so, Jarl." The child looked carefully into the busy
marketplace in front of them. Jarl
muttered beside him. Both were no more
than six years of age, barefooted, their hair unkempt but not overly dirty,
their clothes plain and soiled but not tattered. They looked like any street urchins would, except that their bone
white hair and deep black skin proclaimed them as drow.
marketplace, or the Bazaar, was a collection of many merchant stalls and chic
shops, where common drow and slaves alike wandered, and sometimes a noble
female on a driftdisc and an escort passed through.
were the least noticed creatures, perhaps on par with slaves. Children of the commoners, they went around
begging money, but mostly thieved. Not
many survived the lash of a bodyguard's whip when discovered, or the cruel
sport of a passing drow priestess.
hardly ever, Zak," Jarl said, "Merchant's purses are always filled with gold."
last word seemed to have a hypnotic sound to it, which silenced them both for a
while as they watched their target. A
stout human merchant hawking some 'surface' wares. Mostly odds and ends – staffs, staves, cups, and several live
creatures which they'd never seen before.
The merchant was having a debate with some driftdisc females over a
cowering pair of humanoid creatures.
purse in question was in a corner of the stall near a glass tank filled with
mewling, furry, golden-eyed creatures, with tan fur on the head and the rest of
the body chocolate brown. Their paws
had tiny claws, and they fascinated Zak.
allwus ha' odd tings," Jarl drawled, imitating Nina so perfectly that Zak had
to stifle a laugh. Nina was a half-drow
female, one of the 'ladies' of the night in the brothel where they technically
stayed. They only went there to sleep
in the day, as in the night it had all sorts of weird sounds. The only bad thing about the place was that
the half-drow all insisted on fussing over them, not being permitted children
of their own. Still, square meals and
clothes and a place to sleep was a good deal...
and Zak couldn't remember their parents any longer, except that they had
somehow or other been entrusted to the care of the brothel. Left outside as babes, etc. The both of them didn't actually give much
of a damn.
Are you in?" Jarl waved a hand before Zak's eyes, and he blinked.
I am," Zak said crossly, "So what do you want to do? Sneak over and snitch it
in the middle of all those guards?"
distract, you snitch it," Jarl said.
subtle," Zak said sarcastically.
other ideas?" Jarl asked. "Say, can you
remember what that wizard said when he was showing off here the other day?"
common magic-users, sometimes performed spells for money. Zak liked to watch the colorful
displays. One thing Nina had said about
Zak before was that he had a most uncanny, nearly unnatural memory for
everything, and if needed could recall a conversation made a year ago precisely. He could remember what the wizard did, even
the movements, and Jarl was convinced he could do the spell. He wasn't.
Zak said cautiously.
it over the potter's head?" Jarl asked.
don't think I should," Zak said doubtfully.
not?" Jarl demanded.
was going to protest but realized he couldn't think of anything as to why
not. "Well, what if I can't? I've never
recalled a spell before and you know it."
I'd do the distraction. Make it the
noisy one." Jarl said, referring to the wizard's last trick – mini fireworks.
opened his mouth to protest further, but Jarl was already sidling over to the
fat human's stall. He swallowed hard,
then made his mind blank of distraction, and searched.
always, the memory came up, and when he spoke the words as softly as he could
and did the motions, he was slightly aghast to realize he was speaking in the
could feel some power rushing up inside him, like water roaring up a geyser's
funnel, welling up as he stretched out his finger and pointed, the twinge of
never before known ecstasy as it surged and left. He felt alive.
potter dove to the ground when the fireworks burst out over his head in a roar
of sound and fiery sparks. Zak stared
at it in astonishment – he did not realize it would be so...big. Already, pandemonium had broken out in the
marketplace – the bodyguards nearly panicking, the escorts picking several
took a deep breath and dove into the crowd after his brother. He found him moving away, the purse already
not on the stall.
impulse, Zak took advantage of the chaos a minotaur slave that was maddened by
sparks that had started a fire on its fur to scoop out one of the mewling
things and stuff it into his shirt, then ran off after his brother.
late – one of the bodyguards had either seen them or noted that the purse was
gone and put the blame on them, and shouted.
fireworks," Jarl gasped as they dodged around the legs, "A bit excessive."
cradling his precious bundle, just concentrated on running. Behind them they could hear the sounds of
did you take?" Jarl asked when they ducked into a quieter alley, then into
of the creatures," Zak said. Whatever
it was, it was soft and warm and making a happy rumbling sound. Purring, he realized.
that counted as a share?" Jarl grinned as they wound through the alleys towards
the brothel. The 'ladies' had insisted
on teaching them how to read, write, sing, play an instrument, and fight. The fighting only comprised of daggers, to
the disappointment of the both of them.
what they had seen of the city, they had decided that the half-drow were the
most educated and feeling, though they were a little too free with a switch
when they thought the two were causing trouble.
they 'stole' were distributed between themselves and the brothel. Zak patted the creature again and it purred
enthusiastically. "I think this can be
my share," he said.
yourself," Jarl said, as they slowed to a brisk walk, "I'd be using mine for a
dagger of my own. Or maybe one of those
small hand crossbows."
grinned, then Jarl hissed when the creature poked its head out and then
scrambled into Zak's arms. "It's cute,"
he said in a desultory tone, then grinned.
"Ya'd ha' to fid yit an'..."
yit an' mek sure yit sleeps," Zak continued.
They looked at each other and laughed, then froze when the small
creature made a coughing rasp that was supposed to be a snarl.
grabbed Jarl and pulled him behind a heap of stinking refuse. They waited with bated breath for a while,
then they saw the bodyguards running into the alley at them.
looked at Jarl, then they both darted out and started to run harder. They twisted and turned while the shouts
always seemed to come closer, and sometimes soldiers burst out in front of
didn't understand it. Why was the
merchant so intent on catching them?
they came to alleys, which they did not recognize, and Zak realized he had
another problem – the power was welling up in him again. Trying to force him to use it again. He gulped and ran faster.
They ducked into yet another alley, and came
to an abrupt halt. "Dead end!" Jarl
said, almost a wail. Nowhere to run.
turned, but the bodyguards were already at the exit, swords drawn, cruel smiles
etched on their faces.
urchins," one of them said, and Zak realized that all the bodyguards were
drow. He wondered briefly how the
merchant could have gotten so many drow mercenaries.
the purse and the cub back," another said, "And we'd make sure you die
quickly." The furry creature made
another pathetic snarl at them.
it again, Zak," Jarl whispered, as they were backed to the end of the alley,
"Do more magic!"
was no use saying he could not. The
power was a throbbing force in his mind.
Dreamily, he handed the creature...cub to Jarl, then stretched out his
hands, palms facing the soldiers.
drow laughed. "You think that can stop
remembered. He remembered the wizard's
fire spell – palms out – Agannazar's Scorcher, the wizard had said. His memory had never failed him, and would
not fail him now as he spoke the words in a quick rush and pushed the power out
in a jet of intense flame that engulfed the soldiers in front of them.
it cleared, Zak looked at the ashes in awed astonishment, then at his hands in
shock, but Jarl grabbed his hand and pulled him over the still-hot ground and
out of the alley into another one which was in the vague direction of the
they rounded a corner, they came out into a street – face to face with a drow
priestess, resplendent in her robes, on a driftdisc, soldier escort around
her. Watching them with eyes that were
took them another moment to realize she was a matron.
let out a terrified yelp. All drow
priestesses killed without remorse in the most painful ways, Karene had
said. And matrons were the worst of the
lot. Compared to her, the soldiers were
stared at her. He dared not use his
newfound skill against them, and already he drooped with fatigue. They barely cried out when the drow soldiers