Sleep Eden sleep
My fallen son
Slumber in peace
Cease the pain
Life's just in vain
For us to gain
Nothing but all the same
No healing hand
For your disease
Drinking scorn like water
Cascading with my tears
Nightwish: Two for tragedy
Time of heroes
A small, six year-old boy stood on the roof of the temple of Lathander, looking down at the people walking in the main street of Memnon. It was late afternoon and best market time. He saw another small boy, about his own age, walking with his mother. The boy was talking and the mother laughed and smiled, interested in what the boy was saying. The boy on the roof sighed; he wished he could spend time with his mother. He knew she would be glad if he went home, but he also knew that his father wouldn't be happy to see him, especially if he didn't bring any money with him.
That was the rule of the Entreri household, everybody brought home money or slept outside. Young Artemis had learned it the hard way a year ago and nowadays he didn't even think about going home without at least few copper pieces. The problem was that a six-year-old boy didn't have many ways to get money. Artemis hadn't considered begging, he was a proud child and he couldn't see himself bowing at the nobles and trying to get their attention. The other way, stealing, was his only option, although his mother had taught him that stealing was wrong. He loved his mother and tried to obey her, but sometimes hunger was too much to take and he either stole some food and ate it, or some money which he took home to his father. That way he could sleep one night at home and eat the food or his mother cooked, but only once. Then his father threw him out and told him to collect more money if he wanted to come back.
Artemis looked to the sky where dark clouds were gathering. It would rain soon and he was already cold in his worn out clothes. He knew he could sneak into the temple and steal some money from the box where they collected donations from the rich parishioners. He didn't want to, but the wind was very cold and he was too tired. He took one more look of the street, but the mother and child had disappeared. He sighed again and headed to the stairs he had climbed to get to the roof. He wanted to go home and there was only one way.
Ariana raised her eyes from her book and looked around. She was sure she had heard something, although the main room was supposed to be empty. All the other clerics were preparing for the evening mass and for a while she thought she had imagined the sound. Then she saw, from the corner of her eye, a small boy who was sneaking towards the money platter in the front of the room. He hadn't noticed her and she got up slowly, sliding towards the boy.
Artemis stared at the plate and the money on it. He didn't want to steal, but it was the only way. He reached toward the coins and suddenly someone caught hold of his wrist. He turned and saw a beautiful young woman, who was wearing a robe of a cleric.
"Let me go, please, I promise I'll never come back," Artemis said, trying to sound desperate. He had used this trick a couple of times before and it usually worked.
"What's your name?" Her question surprised him, as did the look on her eyes. It wasn't angry, it was more concerned and a bit curious. She loosened her grip, but still held his wrist.
"Don't look so scared," she said. "I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to know your name. I'm Ariana," she said and smiled. "It's nice to meet you."
"You want to know my name?" Artemis asked, surprised. He looked into the woman's light-green eyes. He wasn't used to trusting people, but there was something in her eyes that he needed, something that told him he wasn't alone. He drew a deep breath: "My name is Artemis."
"Then tell me, Artemis, why were you trying to steal the money?" she asked and let go of his wrist. "What do you need it for"
"I..." Artemis started, but decided not to lie. For some reason he felt he couldn't lie, not to this woman, not in this temple. "I can't go home if I don't have any money. I wasn't going to take all of it, only a little."
"Really?" Ariana asked and looked at the boy. He was small and thin and his hair was black and messy. His eyes were dark grey and they didn't have a frightened look, as Ariana had expected. The boy looked at him honestly and she couldn't help but wondering how he could have gotten so good at hiding his emotions. "How old are you?"
"Six," Artemis answered. "Could you let me go? I promise I won't come here again."
Actually I wish you would come here," Ariana said. "To see me. Here," she continued and took few coins from her pocket, "take these. If you are ever in trouble, come here. I will help you in any way I can. Lathander's blessing upon thee," she said and kissed Artemis's cheek before giving him the coins.
"Thank you," the boy said and Ariana could sware she saw a brief flash of smile in his eyes. Then he ran out into the darkening evening. She sighed and returned to her seat, starting to read her book again.
"Artemis!" Elanna Entreri said surprised, when her only child appeared on the door, soaked from the rain. "My darling, it's good to see you! How have you been?" she asked. "I've been so worried that..."
"Well, look who's here!" Galen Entreri said. Artemis turned to face his father, who had emerged from behind the ragged curtain that divided their home in two. He took out the coins from his pocket and gave them to his father: "Here. I can pay for my keeping."
"I see," his father said. "Very well. Give him something to eat," he said to Elanna. "But be quick, you have to get to work."
"Alright," Elanna said and took his sons hand. "Come, my dear, I'll find you something else to wear." Artemis followed his mother, feeling better than in a long time. Mother was near and nothing could harm him now.
After an hour Artemis had changed his clothes and eaten the bread Elanna had given to her. His father had gone out, probably to drink with Artemis's uncle Garath, and he had sat in his mothers lap, telling her what he had done and listening to her stories. They all told about heroes who fought against evil and conquered darkness. "This is the time of heroes, Artemis. And you'll grow up just like them," Elanna whispered into her sons ear. "You'll be good and righteous and I'll be really proud of you." Artemis listened to his mother's soft voice and fell asleep into her arms, dreaming of great heroes.
"Darling, wake up," Elanna whispered. Artemis opened his eyes and looked at his mother. "I have to go to work. You can eat something if you wish, but when you father comes home, stay out of his way. He can be in a foul mood, so be good."
"Yes, mother," Artemis answered. "I can take care of myself."
"I know you can, dear," Elanna answered. "I know..."
After Elanna had left, Artemis curled on the bed. He didn't want to think about his mother's work. Not now. He knew what she did, she was a prostitute, a woman who sold her body to men. Sometimes he hated her for it, but he knew she wouldn't do it if it wasn't for Galen. He says she has to bring home money and forces her to do that, he thought.
"When I grow up," he whispered, "to be a warrior of virtue, I'll take mother away from here. I sware!" Then the long days at the streets took their toll and he fell asleep again, dreaming of heroes once more.
"Look what we have here!" Artemis woke up when someone took hold of his arm. He turned his head and met the eyes of his uncle. Garath was drunk, swaying a bit, but his speech was still clear. "Isn't this your brat?"
"That's my boy," Galen answered and sat on the bed, almost on Artemis's leg. "A fine boy, isn't he?"
"He sure is," Garath answered and ripped Artemis's shirt open. "And his skin is as soft as girl's. A fine boy indeed."
"Let me go!" Artemis shouted, trying to get up. Galen slapped him and pressed him back on the bed. "Learn to respect your superiors," he shouted and slapped him again. "And don't move."
"Your wife won't be home for some time," Garath said and turned his eyes to Artemis. The boy looked at him with horror, seeing a hungry look in his eyes. "Maybe we can play with this boy. His skin is so soft..."
"Let me... Artemis started, but his father's fist hit his chin. "Shut up! It seems we have to teach you some manners."
Artemis was only half conscious. He couldn't focus his eyes and there was a ringing sound in his ears. He felt his father's breath when he leaned closer: "Let's teach you, little Artemis."
Galen ripped off his trousers and then he felt a terrible pain piercing through his body. He heard his uncle's laughter, his father's heavy breath and movements inside him and then he slipped into merciful unconsciousness.
"No! My dear little boy, no! How could you do this? He is your son!"
"Shut your mouth right now!"
"No, how could you..."
There was a sound of a punch and Elanna cried out. Artemis forced his eyes open and turned his head. His mother was laying on the floor, blood flowing from her nose. Galen stood over her, his eyes glowing with anger. "I told you to shut your mouth. Clean up this mess before I get back," he said and stormed out.
"Mother..." Artemis whispered. His throat hurt and speaking was hard. Elanna turned her gaze on the boy. "My dear Artemis. I am so sorry!" she cried and got up. She sat on the bed and tried to hold Artemis, but the boy avoided his touch.
"It hurts," he said and looked straight into Elanna's eyes. His dark grey eyes were empty. There were no feelings in them, only a blank look. A small cry escaped Elanna's lips as she looked at her child. "It hurts," he repeated and tried to get up. The pain pierced him again and he fell on the floor. Elanna lifted him into her arms and held him close, sobbing quietly.
Artemis didn't feel anything. He stared at his torn clothes on the floor, the bloodstains on the bed, and his hand which was covered with something sticky. He remembered the pain, the heavy breathing and the smell of alcohol in his father's breath, but he felt nothing. The emptiness was comforting, it kept him safe. The emptiness was all he had now.
Ariana was sweeping the floor of the temple. It was one of the duties that the youngest members had to do and although she didn't believe that this was what her god wanted her to do, she didn't argue with the elders. Besides, it usually gave her time to think.
"You said you would help me," a voice said and Ariana swirled around, for she hadn't heard anyone coming. Behind her stood the same boy who had tried to steal the money a day before.
"Hello Artemis, what..." she started and then she noticed the boy's eyes. The dark eyes were filled with fear and pain, and she noticed he was almost crying.
"What's wrong?" she asked. The boy stared at him: "You said you would help me. I have to get away from this town."
"Why? What has happened?"
"Will you help me?" Artemis said and snatched her wrist. His grip was tight, but it was his look that made Ariana froze. The desperation that flashed in his eyes was real and his voice was trembling. "If my father comes looking for me, tell him you haven't seen me. I can't go back. Help me, please."
Ariana stared into his eyes and then nodded. "Come. You can hide in my room today, I'll go to town tomorrow and I'll see what I can do for you. Come quickly now," she added and took Artemis's hand. "I promise you'll be safe."
Ariana closed the door to her room and sighed. The boy had curled up on her bed and fallen asleep. She couldn't even begin to imagine what had happened to him. His eyes... Ariana shook her head and hurried to the kitchen. She took few slices of bread which she took to her room. Artemis was still asleep and she sat down on the bed next to him. She wondered why she cared so much for what happened to this boy whom she had just met. Maybe it was her fate, task given her by Lathander to take care of this child. She had sworn that he would be safe and she was going to keep her word.
"Don't worry," she whispered and caressed his dark hair. He turned in his sleep and mumbled something that sounded like 'mother'. Ariana sat there for hours, simply looking at the boy and praying for him.
"Ariana, I would like to have a word with you," High Priest Viqer said. Ariana nodded nervously. She had kept Artemis hidden for two days and hadn't been successful in finding any help for the boy. Every time someone spoke to her she was worried that they might have found the boy and were going to ask her about him. She wondered if she would be able to lie to Viqer if that was necessary.
"I have a man waiting in my office, called Galen Entreri. His son Artemis has run away and he is worried for his safety in this town. He was thinking that because this temple is the closest to his home, the boy might have come here. Searching for some kind of... Sanctuary, if you wish to call it so. Have you seen a small boy around?"
"Why did the boy ran away?" Ariana asked, thinking feverishly what to answer. Artemis hadn't told her why he had left, so she hoped she could get more information before deciding whether to tell about the boy or not.
"I don't have time for this," Viqer said. "Have you seen a boy?"
"I saw one boy about three days ago," Ariana said, not actually lying. "I'm not sure if he's the same boy, so if I could talk to this father..."
"Fine. As I said, he's in my office," Viqer said looking rather annoyed. He had better things to do than search for missing children.
"Thank you," Ariana said, sending a quick prayer to Lathander in her mind.
"I'm so worried about him," Galen said, trying to sound convincing. He had never expected that the church held such beauties in its service and was quite happy being left alone with the young cleric. "You see, his mother drinks and has these... Bad moments, when she even hits the boy. He ran away and I've been looking for him for two days. So please, help me to find him."
"I think it was your boy I saw," Ariana said, trying to think how to survive this situation. The man seemed honest and, she admitted to herself, he was very good looking. She blushed a bit and tried to avoid the man's eyes.
The little slut is blushing, he thought and smiled. He could imagine what it would be like to take her here, in this stupid temple of some fake deity. Would she scream? I bet she would. He concentrated on the task at hand, getting the boy back before he told somebody about what had happened.
"Please, I really love my son," he continued, trying his best. "And I love my whole family and I don't want it torn apart. My brother is a man of some wealth and if you help me, we'll reward you."
"I am a member of this church," she answered. "I have no need for your money. But..." she continued and at the same time sent a silent apology to Artemis. She had to make a choice and she decided to trust this honest-looking man. "I know where he is. He seemed really scared and I thought... He didn't tell me what had happened, so I didn't really know what to do. But I trust you, so..."
"Thank you so much," Galen said, trying to stop himself from bursting in laughter. "I'll reward you, or your church, for this."
"No! No! Let go of me!" Ariana heard Artemis's cries and tried to concentrate on her book.
"You promised!" he shouted to Ariana when his father dragged him past her. "You said I'd be safe! You lied."
"You'll be safer with your family," Ariana said, trying to convince herself as much as the boy.
"Here," Garath Entreri, Artemis's uncle, said and gave Ariana a bag of coins. "For helping us find our dear little boy."
"You lied to me!" Artemis screamed. His eyes were dark and empty and he kept repeating the sentence until the doors of the temple slammed shut.
"You did the right thing," High Priest Viqer said and took the purse from Ariana's hand. "This will get us new silver candlesticks."
"That's good," Ariana mumbled. "That's what the world needs. Candlesticks..."
"I'm sorry? Viqer asked, weighing the purse in his hand.
"Nothing," Ariana said and got up. The prayer book fell on her feet but she didn't even notice that. "I need some time... To pray," she said, but the words sounded empty. "I need... Some answers."
"Worry not, my child. I'm sure he will be alright," Viqer said, noticing Ariana's doubt. "I believe his family is celebrating his return tonight."
Artemis Entreri didn't cry when his father beat him. He didn't cry when his father and uncle raped him again. He didn't cry when his mother held him in her arms, moaning and cursing her husband. He didn't cry, because there was no reason to cry. They had hurt him and they would hurt him again, but that didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. He closed his eyes and fell into deep, dreamless sleep. The time of heroes was gone.
Hark: My first Entreri-fic with some modifications. Entreri belongs to R. A. Salvatore.