Important Note, 10/15/05: This was my very first fanfic; I finished writing it on May 9, 2004 and began posting it to Lavender Eyes on May 13, 2004. It is the first story in what became a series of ongoing adventures for Artemis and Jarlaxle. As such, I have left it as it was, and it is unlikely I shall revise it. Therefore, please enjoy it as is.

This fanfic is meant to take place several months after "Empty Joys." The story is heavily based upon "The Third Level" from Realms of Infamy, in which we learn that as a child, Entreri was sexually abused by his father, uncle, and a man on a caravan. If reading about childhood sexual abuse and rape bothers you, do not proceed.

Update, Oct. 2006: Obviously, this fanfic was written back in 2004, long before the release of RotP. Like I said in the above paragraph, I based my fanfics on "The Third Level," a short story RAS wrote back in 1993. In that story, fourteen year old Entreri remembers being sexually abused by three people, not just his uncle. I will not change this story in light of the revision in RotP, so simply take the change with a grain of salt.

As for other differences, 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 2005. 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.

The Road to Redemption: The Progression of a Killer

By Ariel

Description: Jarlaxle makes a discovery about Entreri's childhood, and the two learn a little bit more about the nature of friendship. Warning: violence, torture, and implied child abuse. Drama/Action/Angst.

Disclaimer: Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri belong to R.A. Salvatore and Wizards of the Coast, as do Drizzt and Zaknafein. The following story is just for the amusement of the fans and will never make any profit. Like many other fanfic writers, I am a very poor student, so suing me would do no one any good.

Chapter 1

Artemis Entreri sighed as he and his traveling companion ventured out of the caves. The winding tunnels in the foothills had provided Jarlaxle and him with ample cover from the night's rain, but the morning, while clear, was not promising. High summer had arrived to the lands southwest of Damara, and it had brought with it an unusually high temperature for such a normally temperate place. The humidity was suffocating already, though it was only midmorning, and waves of heat rippled up from the hard-packed dirt road as the sunlight punished the travelers with a burning glare. Within minutes, sweat coursed down Entreri's forehead, and he pushed his cloak off his shoulders in an attempt to cool off. The assassin scowled. Heat was fine; he'd lived in a desert environment for almost his entire life. Humidity was evil. Fortunately, the companions' destination was the forest, and while the ample cover from the canopy of trees would not alleviate the humidity, it would cut down on both the glare and the heat.

Jarlaxle chatted away in his usual manner as they entered the trees; Entreri had rarely known one capable of such endless chatter. But the verdant foliage and sweet scent of honeysuckle in the surrounding forest enchanted the drow, just as the towering snow-capped mountains behind them had. This, of course, won the assassin a speech on their fine surroundings:

"Surely you cannot be immune to such beauty!" the elf was saying. "Even if you cannot appreciate the mountains arching toward the very heavens, you should exclaim over these vibrant purple . . ." Jarlaxle faltered in his dramatic speech as he eyed the flowers.

"Just call them wild flowers," Entreri said.

"Wild flowers, then! Or this colorful plant which is racing across the forest floor," Jarlaxle pointed to the right of the dirt path, where a vine-like tangle seemed to chaotically weave its way around everything in sight.

"That's wild strawberry," Entreri noted. "More of a weed, really."

Jarlaxle was undeterred. "What a world you live in, if even weeds are beautiful!"

Entreri held in a sigh and gave up. Ever did this one find beauty in the landscape! Still, Entreri suspected a second reason for the speech; the drow, in his irritating, cheerful manner, seemed bent upon trying to show the assassin something about beauty, although the man wasn't quite sure why.

But their surroundings likely only added to the drow's delight over their most recent adventure: a dangerous stint as bodyguards for a noble lady that had lined their pockets quite well. The companions had been hired by a family locked in a generations-old internal feud, and they had been promised much to keep a beloved daughter safe. Never had Entreri understood the use of the phrase "hair-raising," but after the resulting battle with a lich, the assassin had to admit he was now closer to understanding the expression.

"Although perhaps we should reconsider our attitude toward our new mission," Jarlaxle was saying.

Surprised, Entreri focused more fully on the dark elf's running dialogue. "We should?"

Unlike their previous job, their current mission seemed more mundane to Entreri. After quickly traveling far away from their previous employers in Raven's Bluff, they'd wandered into a remote city even further southwest of their original haunt in Damara, and upon arrival, they'd been almost immediately hired by a crime family to capture—alive—a highly-wanted assassin named Merrick. "Capturing the man does not sound overly difficult," Entreri said. "His skills in covering his trail have proven less than impressive, and we should catch up to him within the day."

"Perhaps," Jarlaxle replied. "But while you slept the other night, I decided to gather a bit more information about this forest, and the locals hold that there is a fortress hidden out here, a base of operations for a criminal by the name of Brok Waylein. The locals seem quite fearful of him, spinning tales of dark magic and unimaginable torture."


"Even with my considerable talents," Jarlaxle continued with a smile, "I was unable to determine exactly where this fortress is said to be or who this Waylein really is. If our friend is connected to him, however, we may be facing greater odds than we originally thought."

"I would hardly be surprised to hear that the assassin has connections," Entreri said, his boredom evident, "but as long as we do not rush in like fools—"

"Proper reconnaissance and careful preparation of the battle field," Jarlaxle chimed in, smiling for all the realms like he hoped to meet resistance.

"Unless you want to die," the assassin said snidely, then dropped the subject. No one loved a challenge more than Entreri, but as the companions continued down the well-trodden trail, he admitted that Jarlaxle preferred living on the edge of disaster.

Yet Entreri's contemplation of his likely imminent death floated away from him as they ventured deeper into the forest, which revealed to them trees with trunks as thick as buildings. Jarlaxle fell into a nearly-awed silence while he contemplated the massive, towering trees that dwarfed them and likewise seemed fascinated by the torso-thick vines looping from tree to tree.

"These plants are even more spectacular than the previous ones!" he remarked, and Entreri shook his head, once again amazed at his friend.

The assassin, however, was more concerned with immediate, practical issues, for as they rounded the corner, they found a river with no bridge to cross it. Posts on each side of the riverbank revealed that a bridge had once existed, but it had been swept away, presumably by the raging waters of the spring melt-off.

"Improper maintenance," the drow chided.

Entreri considered their options, keeping in mind the width and possible depth of the water. "Best just to use a vine to swing across."

Jarlaxle nodded in agreement, and the human went across first, landing neatly on the opposite embankment with cat-like precision. Instantly, every instinct in the warrior-assassin's mind flared, and he drew his weapons so quickly his arms likely seemed a blur to any onlookers. The first arrow whizzed in, and he batted it aside with only a breath to spare. Ten forms burst from the undergrowth, all closing on Entreri's position, even as the assassin's quick eyes picked out a dozen archers. Jarlaxle landed behind him a moment later, and Entreri knew it would be a fierce battle indeed when their attackers surrounded them. However, even though these were experienced and talented men and women, the assassin had faith in his and his partner's ability to either defeat them or escape with their lives.

An exclamation at his back was Entreri's first indication that something was horribly, unutterably wrong. Even Jarlaxle's yelp of surprise did not prepare the assassin for what he realized next: Charon's Claw, his powerful, deadly sword, had not responded to his command to emit its ash. When the drow's daggers did not begin cutting down their enemies, Entreri drew the only logical conclusion: they had crossed into a dead magic zone.

However, Entreri was a survivor to the deepest core of his being, so he didn't miss a beat as the realization struck him. He met the attack of the first two swordsmen with all his customary skill, using his sword to turn aside the first man's blade with an inside block. While his dagger would not draw the life-force from his attackers, Entreri didn't need its power to kill, so he thrust the blade forward without hesitation. His opponent parried even as the second attacker tried to impale Entreri from behind, but the assassin ducked and turned, twisting beneath the blades and leveling his sword simultaneously, forcing both men back. The instant Entreri jumped aside, gaining space in which to launch his next attack, a crossbow bolt whizzed past his face, cutting so close it opened a gash along his jaw. With the two swordsmen rushing him, Entreri hadn't the time to locate the crossbowman, but he knew he'd do well to remember both the hidden attacker and the archers.

Not ten feet away, Jarlaxle fought two warriors as well, and he was uncomfortably aware of remaining six swordsmen and the archers now circling the mercenaries. With the magic of his bracers defeated, the drow couldn't attack with daggers or even summon two daggers to turn into swords. In fact, the situation was dire, indeed, for Jarlaxle couldn't use even one of his many wands or engage the enchantment upon his cloak, which would misdirect the warriors' attacks. Instead, the drow had to rely on wit.

Fighting empty-handed, Jarlaxle employed his speed to grab the first swordsman's wrist and hold his blade out wide. Instantly he stepped forward, punching the man in the sternum. The man gasped and coughed, and Jarlaxle, without letting go of his grip on the man's wrist, altered his momentum to whirl under the man's arm and twist his arm behind his back. This caused the man to drop his sword, which Jarlaxle caught on the toe of his boot and flipped up into the air to catch in his free hand. It also provided the drow with a living shield against his second attacker.

However, before Jarlaxle could press his advantage, a sharp sting in his shoulder alerted him to the fact he'd been shot. The drow glanced back quickly, seeing a crossbow bolt protruding from his back. With a curse, he continued his attack, shoving his captive into the second warrior in order to stop his charge. But the burn in Jarlaxle's veins told him the bolt had been poisoned.

The drow had just enough time to witness Entreri taking a bolt in the arm before a cold darkness ripped his consciousness from him.