Jarlaxle eased himself onto the pew and slapped Entreri on the knee. "Perhaps not our best work."
Entreri snorted. "We're still alive. Socor is not. I don't see the problem."
Jarlaxle grinned and settled next to his friend. The sunset filtered through the fragments of glass still hanging in the windows of the temple, creating tiny rainbows and patterns of light across the pews. Dust motes hung in the air, highlighted by the sun's rays, and birds chirped in the rafters. Aside from Socor's corpse, which lay at the base of the altar, no one would be able to tell a battle had taken place in the dilapidated sanctuary.
Jarlaxle sighed and willed himself to relax against the hard, wooden pew. Hector, Tai, and he had taken turns healing everyone—or trying to, at any rate. Ultimately they'd managed to patch up each other, and Jarlaxle had learned that the failed spells were the result of something outside of himself. Perhaps the general area had several wild magic zones, and if so, that would explain his failed levitation spell. At any rate, the drow resolved not to worry about it.
With the healings completed, the group had fallen into an exhausted silence. Tai, who was sitting on Entreri's other side, had fallen asleep on the assassin's shoulder. Entreri was managing to take this in stride and was actually staying still so the boy could rest. Hector, on the other hand, was standing before the trio, his arms crossed before his chest.
"You really should sit," the drow said after several long moments, for Hector was still weak and tired.
The cleric shook his head. "No, I'm fine." He eyed Tai. "I must say I'm astounded by your friend. Given his extreme youth, I had assumed him to be . . . not much more than a novice at receiving divine power. However, using a divinely empowered word to paralyze Socor is an astonishing feat. I admit that not even I could do that."
Jarlaxle pursed his lips, intrigued. Entreri looked perplexed and briefly glanced at the boy leaning against his shoulder.
"I'm also astounded by your behavior," Hector continued. "Frankly, I assumed you'd allow the boy to die. Yet it is obvious to me that you both rushed to his rescue."
Entreri scowled, and Jarlaxle hid a grin. The elf expected the assassin to claim he hadn't come to rescue Tai, but he remained moodily silent.
"Still," Hector added, "your ability to care for one person does not indicate anything about your worldview, and so I find no compelling reason to stay the hand of justice."
Entreri sighed in exasperation. "Are you so sure you can accurately judge a man's heart?"
"A man's actions reveal his heart," Hector replied.
"And what have our actions said, priest, in the time we've known you?" the assassin retorted.
Hector paused and considered Entreri for several moments. "On one hand, Tyr demands justice," he said slowly, apparently dodging the question. "On the other, he is often saddened, not angry, over the inevitable truth that mortals cannot hope to attain a perfectly just society."
"Is that so?" the assassin asked skeptically.
Hector frowned. "Are you really going to accept payment for defeating Socor?"
Entreri traded looks with Jarlaxle. "No," the assassin replied with a smirk. "Killing him was payment enough. Why do you wish to know?"
Hector simply nodded and turned to leave.
"Mercy? From you?" Entreri asked, incredulous.
The priest turned back and smiled sadly. "If it were only up to me, no. But it is not, and your actions during the time I have been following you have been . . . acceptable." He paused. "Just remember that all priests are not as your father was, nor is Tyr what your childhood memory suggests. And I think perhaps Tyr wishes you would mend your ways enough to return to the fold."
Entreri glared at Hector.
"But also remember," Hector continued gravely, "that if I learn of any new wrongdoing on either of your parts, I will track you down and punish you both to the full extent of the law."
"And I'll be waiting to kill you," Entreri promised him.
Hector sneered, but he turned without comment and left.
As soon as Hector's footsteps faded, Tai opened his eyes and sat up straight, revealing he had merely been resting, not sleeping. "Better to join Hoar's fold than Tyr's," he said with a grin. The assassin snorted. "However," the cleric continued, "Master Macatos is correct on at least one count: the divine power I used was far past my ability. But the blessing of an interested god produces miracles." He patted Entreri's arm. "Please remember that."
"Enough," the assassin said. "I have had enough of both gods and men for one day."
"As you wish." Tai smiled. "It is only that I care."
Entreri gave him an odd look then, and Jarlaxle smiled. The assassin might seem exasperated, but in truth, Jarlaxle suspected that Entreri was finally beginning to find his way. Of course, Entreri's road to redemption would be a long one, but he'd made this important start, a decision involving others beyond himself. Pleased with that thought, the mercenary turned his grin upon Entreri. "I suppose we are now at last heroes," Jarlaxle teased him.
The assassin narrowed his eyes at the drow. "I'm no hero. I only did what was necessary."
Jarlaxle chuckled at the irony of Entreri's response. "Ah! Necessary, is it? Then you are well on your way to having heroism as your second nature."
Entreri punched Jarlaxle in the arm.
"No! Help, Tai!" Jarlaxle yelped in mock fright. "The nasty assassin is assaulting me! Use your holy word against him."
Entreri made a rude gesture at the drow in response, but Tai laughed. "I can't," the cleric explained, playing along. "If the word didn't paralyze Master Entreri along with Socor the first time, it certainly won't now!"
"Oh, no! I'm damned!" Jarlaxle threw a hand up to his forehead in an overdramatic gesture, pretending to be distressed.
But Entreri apparently had not let go of the "hero" comment yet. "I'm about as likely to be heroic as you are to be generous," the assassin said.
Jarlaxle blinked owlishly, pretending to be both innocent and dense. "I've kept you as a friend. Is that not generous?"
Entreri raised his fist a second time, and the drow laughed and quickly scooted away.
"What happened to my virtuous paladin, the brave knight who killed the vile wizard?" Jarlaxle asked from his spot halfway down the pew, unable to stop himself.
"Wicked drow!" Entreri exclaimed and jumped up, rushing the mercenary, who tried to run away. "The so-called paladin will rid the land of your foul presence!" He tackled Jarlaxle and toppled them both into the floor. They landed with grunts because of their lingering injuries, but Entreri didn't miss a beat. He wrapped his hands around Jarlaxle's neck and shook him, and the drow fought back by punching Entreri in the jaw.
Tai just sat back and laughed at the pair. "You two are really incorrigible! Whatever are we going to do with you?"
A grin slowly worked its way onto the faces of both the drow and the assassin, but they kept up their mock battle all the same.
A/N: Okay! We're done with The Road to Redemption. My deepest thanks to any readers and reviewers. Special thanks to darkhelmetj for sharing with me so many conversations and insights on Entreri and Jarlaxle and for beta reading my story. It's been quite helpful and inspirational. Likewise, special thanks to Matt for beta reading, his helpful information and comments on the fight scenes, and his support. "The Face of a God" was finished on August 16, 2004.