Zak padded down busy Narbondellyn, Zaire following closely behind him. Beside him, Jarlaxle yawned.
"Didn't get much sleep?" Zak grinned, not looking at the head of House Do'Urden.
"No," Jarlaxle sighed. The new 'government' had smoothed out most of the rough edges in a remarkably quick period of time. There had been some half-hearted attempts from the females at rebellion, but most of the others had settled down, perhaps resentfully but relieved that they weren't going to lose their lives, or get tortured like what Zak would have had if he had lost to them. Lanfaye had settled down really well...once she'd ascertained that Jarlaxle wasn't about to try and lord it over her.
"How are you?" Jarlaxle grinned. Zak had been very busy for the past few months, and this was the first time since then that Jarlaxle had seen him.
"Also tired," Zak smiled. Jarlaxle noted that his brother did smile more often now. "I worked out a bit of 'agreement' with magic – I use it at least once a day, and it stops trying to take over my voice. It really spooks Zaire." The cheetah chirped an agreement.
"You can talk to it?" Jarlaxle looked surprised.
"It is alive, in a sense," Zak sighed. "It's complicated."
"I'm sure it is," Jarlaxle shrugged. "Ah, there's Laner."
"And he's looking well," Zak grinned.
"What do you expect?" Jarlaxle muttered.
The dwarf looked up from his new, impressive stall in the middle of the bazaar. "Zaknafein an' Jarlaxle!" he roared, turning to them.
"Hello, Laner," Zak smiled, "You conniving bugger."
"Me beard," Laner grinned from ear to ear, "Yer city's lookin' better den yit ever has. The neew nem's better too."
Zaknafein and Drizzt had changed the name of the city. No more 'of Menzoberra', it was now 'Che'el D'aerthe'. More appropriate, somehow.
There were more non-drow traders in the bazaar now, and Zak couldn't say that it wasn't boosting the economy.
One of the trader's 'goods' caught his eye while Jarlaxle was bargaining heatedly with Laner over a suit of mithril armor.
Amongst a group of selling, depressed-looking slaves were two proud elves. Zak thought they were a new type of surface elves until he noted the faint 'aura' that all Underdark-born creatures had, sort of like a flicker of red brown amber in the color of magic.
The elves had light bronzed-yellow skin, and deep black hair. The pupils of their eyes were also black, and the eyes almond-shaped and tilted up at the sides rather exotically. They seemed to be smaller sized than the drow elves that gawked at them, but not in musculature or such but in proportion. They radiated a certain aloof laziness even through the shackles on their hands.
"What elves are those?" Zak nudged Laner.
Laner squinted in the direction of his pointed finger. "Oh. Rare type. Underdark. Live inna beeg, beeg cavern underneath one o' the surface world oceans. Can't remember whut they're called."
"I see," Zak said dryly. He padded over to the elves, Jarlaxle looking torn between bargaining and following. Muttering apologies to Laner, the lord of Do'Urden hurried after his brother and the cheetah.
The drow parted from his way. Three meters away, he deftly picked out the language of the elves from their minds into his head.
The slaver, a drow, wandered up to him. "Greetings and Salutations, ArchMage. May I interest you in any of my goods?"
Zak looked curiously at the elves. "What are they?" he asked. One of them stiffened, but the other put a restraining hand on his elbow.
"Zhongguo elves," the slaver shrugged, "From BaiLong cavern, far north from here. They're good fighters and good...riders. Would you like to buy them?"
"Perhaps so," Zak said. "Five hundred adamantite for each."
"Five hundred, sir?" the slaver looked dismayed. Zaire snarled then, startling some of the goblin slaves into gibbering terror, and he looked nervously at Zak.
"Or nothing," Jarlaxle added.
"Very good sir," the slaver regained his composure.
Zak nodded, and paid up. He picked up both chains of the shackles, and jerked his head, signaling that the elves should follow.
One of the elves dug in his heels, but the other hissed at him and he reluctantly followed.
"I'd see you later," Jarlaxle said, turning morosely back to Laner. Zaknafein nodded at him.
Zak looked pointedly at nothing in front of him, and a portal formed to a meeting room in HQ. Zaire padded in first, and Zak dragged the two elves after him.
"Right," he said in their language, when he had indicated that they should sit down, "Tell me about this 'White Dragon' cavern of yours."
The first looked surprised, then suspicious. "Why?" he asked, in a musical voice.
"You are slaves to me," Zak said dryly, "Though I would rather see it as a payable debt, it is purely your choice."
"So that you can invade us?" the second one growled, "We will raise weapons and defend our ground, unshakable as rock."
Zak looked significantly at the first.
"He is young and excitable," the first said, "This paying back of debt is not uncommon to us."
"Actually, I was thinking more of trade," Zak said, "And diplomatic relations. I do want Che'el D'aerthe to continue on after I die."
"Water from far away cannot quench a near fire." The first observed.
"Perhaps so," Zak commented, "But it can surely scare off any arsonists."
"Well said," the first one grinned, "My name is Tianxiang."
"Heaven's Luck?" Zak observed.
"Not so lucky, apparently," Tianxiang grinned. "Though many call me Luck."
"My name is Feijian," the second said grudgingly.
"Flying sword. Interesting," Zak grinned. "Now, are you two important in the world of yours?"
"Important enough," Luck said carefully.
"I see," Zak commented. "Enough to set up relations in a favorable light?"
"Yes." Luck said.
Feijian raised an eyebrow. "But..." he began.
"We also need allies," Luck said, "Better if it were to have come from our Qin family, would it not?"
"Yes," he sighed.
"Good," Luck grinned, "It is good that you gave us a debt then," he told Zak.
"Why is that so?" Zak asked.
"Well, if you were just to set us free it would have been an insult," Luck explained, "We'd have killed you."
"It's what we're like," Feijian grinned wolfishly. "Friend?"
"Friend," Zak smiled. Why not, anyway?
"Right," Luck commented, "Now we'd protect you until you decide our debt's been paid off. And help you in any way we think good, of course."
"Honor is that big among your race?" Zak grinned.
"Unfortunately." Feijian sighed.