The Three Kings
By LordOnisyr and Ariel D
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of R.A. Salvatore/Wizards of the Coast ©. We don't own them; we're just examining all their possibilities.
LordOnisyr: This was the second part of the series of IM conversations passed between Ariel and me last year (yeah, a long time I know.) I was looking through my various files a few months ago and got the urge to format this part of the dialogue into another chapter. I formatted the dialogue into a scene and Ariel, armed with her +1 red cursor of awesomeness, took this little monster and cleaned it up.
Yeah it's been a while since this thing has been updated, though for a journalist and a college student time is a rare commodity especially with our own other projects going on. Thanks to everyone who has been reading this mass of banter, you all rock.
Chapter 2: Of Rock Slides and Irate Mercenaries
Entreri stood still, clenching his fist and looking out at the dark horizon. The clouds that had once drenched his party in soaking rains were now pretty puffs of indigo against the bright, waxing moon. Eventually, though, he knew he would have to look down at the mess underneath his feet.
The rockslide that narrowly crushed him and his two companions was now a mass of pebbles that were now sinking into the muddy ground at their feet. If this wasn't mess enough, the sight of his younger companion sitting on the wet ground, covered in gray dust, and grabbing his leg with a mass of groans and obscenities from at least two languages the human recognized.
Entereri looked at the clearly injured Drizzt then at Jarlaxle standing beside him with a grin that was a bit too merry for his liking. The human sighed and walked to Drizzt, at least to make sure no amputations were required.
"Now let me see," Drizzt said in an annoyed growl, finding a more comfortable position on the wet ground while grabbing his leg, the pain still a massive ache. "I recalled at one point, last night to be exact, warning you that this section of the Nether Mountains is frequented by rock slides. Though my warnings mean nothing do they?"
Entreri knelt down to his companion and grabbed his leg, feeling a clean crack in his femur.
"We won't have to shoot him, will we?" Jarlaxle asked with a smile, prompting glares from both his companions.
Entreri gave no warning before snapping the bones of Drizzt's right femur back into place. Drizzt gave a loud yelp that turned into another mass of groans and obscenities.
"You're welcome," the assassin said.
"Now, now, I do believe we owe him a little apology," Jarlaxle said, bending to one knee and putting his healing orb over Drizzt's broken leg.
"Apology, my ass," Drizzt hissed, his teeth still clenched in pain, though the sickening ache was melting away as the orb did its work. "You're just laughing your nuts off that I was the one who tripped over that boulder and not you."
"And you're saying this to the one who's healing your leg," Entreri said.
Just yesterday the three were hacking into a red dragon to retrieve a blue diamond for their current employer. That should have been the most difficult part of the journey and all three should have returned to the wizard's tent on the outskirts of the hills with minimal issue. Jarlaxle was leading the party through territory he swore he had traversed in previous journeys.
Jarlaxle mentioned nothing about the orc tribes patrolling the hills around their path or the sand snakes that almost sprung unnoticed. Their only warning was Drizzt's knowledge that the creatures had a faint smell of lily and rotting corpse, a rare fact that gave the party at least a second to prepare while giving Drizzt gloating rights over Jarlaxle for the entire day.
Drizzt did explicitly warn the party during their second and supposedly final night on the road that hills such as these had unstable rock formations that were prone to give out at any moment. Jarlaxle, however, lead the entire party on a path that directly bordered rock ledges.
All they heard was a loud rumble before all three were running, their nimble legs dodging the waves of falling rocks and rolling boulders. Drizzt had kept up his momentum, but did not see the massive boulder hurdling down at him until the last moment. He avoided being crushed, but not his leg being clipped and snapped by the momentum of the rock brushing past him.
No one in the party sustained any worse injuries other than cuts and nasty bruises. With help from the healing orb, Drizzt's leg bone knitted within seconds. The pain melted away and he cautiously flexed it with a sigh of relief.
"My sincerest apologies for not heeding your words," Jarlaxle said half-sincerely. "Your words could have prevented this incident."
"You are so observant," Entreri said, his mood made immensely sourer by this last incident. "I personally do not enjoy seeing any of us crushed by rocks or orcs just for the purpose of taking a short cut."
"You two really are soft," the ranger said sarcastically, slowly coming to his still-aching legs.
"Only where it concerns you," the drow mercenary added.
"Unless he gets in the way of your profit," Entreri muttered, putting words to every misgiving he had about this journey. "Then you'll just kill him, rock slide or no."
"Or sell me as collateral...or just sell me," Drizzt muttered, meeting Entreri's gaze and receiving a smirk and nod in return.
"Dear me, you make it sound as if all I care about is my own pocket," Jarlaxle said, looking almost hurt. "If I were to do away with either of you, I think a rock slide is a rather dull way to do it."
Drizzt and Entreri glared at him.
"It's not true at all!" he said "I have a great heart for compassion...when it suits me!"
"I rest my case," Entreri said.
"At least Entreri has gained the capacity to understand loyalty," Drizzt said with a sideways smirk to the human. "You never learn!"
"You know what they say about old dogs," Entreri said first to Drizzt, though his tone became louder as he talked back to Jarlaxle. "And Jarlaxle is what...500? 600?"
"And you know what they say about wine, it gets richer...I mean improves with age," Jarlaxle replied cheerily, trying to poke a little fun at himself to appease the two hardly amused professional killers.
"Case officially rested," Drizzt said, dusting the grass and drying mud off his black leather trousers.
"Now I am hardly heartless," Jarlaxle said with a tsk.
"That's right, you never possessed a heart," Drizzt said, mocking Jarlaxle's typically cheery tone.
"Why sure I do," Jarlaxle replied, putting a dramatic hand to his chest. He walked forward, hoping to prod his companions along in the same direction. "I've saved both of your pathetic selves more than once now. That proves I have compassion! Why else would I bother with such lost causes?"
"Because you profit from it, of course," Entreri said, looking back at his companion. "Though I do recall a few more times of using both of us as shields."
Jarlaxle rolled his eyes and gave a tired laugh, stopping briefly and looking back at both. He was sick of getting picked at. It wasn't his fault the mountain decided to crumble
"He got you there," Drizzt said, meeting Jarlaxle's gaze with a threatening glare and an evil smile. "You can't deny it."
Drizzt and Entreri glanced at each other for a moment, exchanging wicked smirks.
"Well both of you are alive now," Jarlaxle replied with a wicked grin. "You see, if I had no compassion, you could have killed each other."
Entreri grimaced, though seeing Drizzt mouth "blah, blah, blah," made him snicker.
"And been killed by a dragon, and killed by a dracolich," Entreri said.
"If you insist," Jarlaxle said cheerily. He'd brush off their immaturity.
"Don't give us that jovial façade when you're so full of it," Drizzt said with a stiff laugh, prompting an evil chuckle from the human.
"'If we insist?'" Entreri asked in a tone of mock hurt."If memory my memory is correct, you're not the one who was almost burnt into cinders by an undead dragon."
"He left you to face an undead dragon?" Drizzt said in mock horror, swinging around and facing Jarlaxle directly. "Heartless!"
"I think I liked the two of you better when you were at odds." Jarlaxle's smile seemed a touch forced
"Oh yes, so much more fun to orchestrate a little performance yourself," Drizzt replied, skipping across the ground and sliding a little closer into Jarlaxle's face just to see how he would react.
"Not performance," Jarlaxle said in a biting tone, pointing to the human, "personal aid for Master Artemis."
Entreri gave a mocking smile back. "Oh yes, it did wonders."
"Yes, watching me get a dagger through my chest to help him," Drizzt said.
"Well at least it was therapeutic," Jarlaxle replied, pushing Drizzt aside and walking forward.
"Agreed," Entreri said, standing back with Drizzt. "But the personal aid also included healing Drizzt behind my back and then lying to me about it for years."
"Preferred me dead?" Drizzt said, looking at Entreri with a smirk.
"At the time," the assassin replied. "Now I'm enjoying having you to side with me against Jarlaxle."
"Grr," Jarlaxle said politely with a bored glare before continuing forward.
"See?" Drizzt said, "I'm beneficial!"
Entreri chuckled, prompting a hard sigh from Jarlaxle.
"I can't get away from you fools," the mercenary said through clenched teeth
"Think of it as therapeutic," Entreri said.
"A nice way to keep you enormous ego in check," Drizzt said, throwing his arm around Entreri and getting pushed back a few feet in an instant.
"A way for me to learn tolerance for you two imbeciles," Jarlaxle said, turning back and making eye contact with the two for a moment before whipping his cape back around and walking forward.
"Well, it's hardly our fault that you consistently underestimate those around you all the time," Entreri said. Jarlaxle's mental guard was clearly down, or at least seemed to be. Regardless, he wanted to take a moment to savor his opportunity as recompense for almost getting crushed by boulders. "We wouldn't have been chased out of two countries if you didn't have an ego the size of a sun."
"And of course the two professional murderers who tag along with me do nothing to contribute to that factor," Jarlaxle replied.
Drizzt stepped back with a smile; watching these two dig into each other was always fun.
"Of course not," Entreri said, "I'm the practical one here. You're the one going after dragons and shards and kings. I'm too well grounded to do something so foolish."
"Yes, given the messes you create, you need two murders to clean up your mess!" Drizzt said with a proud declaration.
"Oh this from the one who creates the messes out of sport." Jarlaxle pointed first to Drizzt in a sweeping gesture and then Entreri "And the one who's mere charming personality creates messes."
"Very well," Entreri said, walking closer to Jarlaxle and giving a sideways glare to the snickering Drizzt before turning his gaze back to the other drow. Jaralxle was actually getting visibly irritated with this conversation. "I wasn't going to bother myself to say so, but I shall anyway. Your barbs are not based in truth. I am perfectly able of being both diplomatic and charming. It's simply that I'd be wasting the effort on either one of you."
Drizzt and Jarlaxle looked at each other, Drizzt smirking while Jarlaxle managed an amused smile as both looked back at Entreri.
"Diplomatic and charming?" Jarlaxle asked incredulously. "You certainly hid it well."
"Or he's in denial," Drizzt said, reaching into his belt and pulling out his clove pouch.
"Do you really think I made the connections I did in Calimport and worked my way through the ranks with no personality?" the assassin asked. "There is much personal grace needed when one freelances in a city like that one."
"Yes, like knowing the best place to stick the dagger," Drizzt said, taking a pre-rolled clove stick out of his pouch and putting one end in his mouth.
"So you two do have something in common after all," Jarlaxle said over his shoulder.
"That I would ever have lived to see the day I'd admit to that," Entreri said to Drizzt with a glare.
Drizzt struck a match on the bottom of his boot and lit the clove with a few puffs; the aromatic smoke calmed his nerves.
"Doesn't it just irk your soul?" Drizzt blew out a stream while looking down briefly at the stick between his middle and forefinger.
"It would if he didn't love you so much," Jarlaxle said.
Entreri snorted. "I think I'll make a necklace from your tongue."
Drizzt smiled. "I could teach you how."
"Another thing I didn't want to know," Jarlaxle muttered
Entreri gave a laugh, hearing every word the mercenary said under his breath.
"Jarlaxle does have an awfully large tongue given how much he talks," Entreri said. "Do you think we could make two necklaces of it?"
Drizzt stroked his pointed chin and smiled.
"If you split it the right way, yes you very well could. It's a very well-worked muscle."
Jarlaxle smiled and threw his nose in the air, looking complimented in spite of himself. Drizzt and Entreri glared at him with menacing grins.
"Don't get any bright ideas," Jarlaxle said, making a sweeping hand gesture toward himself. "I'm the one with all the intelligence and wealth. Deny it all you want, but you two would be nowhere without me."
"Not if we loot your corpse," Drizzt said, taking a casual draw.
"That doesn't solve the part about intelligence," Jarlaxle replied.
"There you go, assuming others are lesser," Entreri replied, his venom not waning. "Maybe we could use your big head as a chair."
"A stable might serve better," Drizzt said.
"I know rangers pride themselves on using the entire animal they kill," Entreri said giving Drizzt a feral grin. "How shall we make the best use of Jarlaxle's body?"
Drizzt eyed Jarlaxle with his own venomous smile, prompting a glare from Jarlaxle, who was visibly tiring of this conversation.
"His huge head will be a feeding trough," the ranger said evenly, as if describing the procedure like a common plan. "His skin as a fancy pair of pants, though he has no heart to do anything with."
"Too bad he doesn't have hair," Entreri said, pointing at Jarlaxle's bald head. "We could weave it into a rug."
Jarlaxle didn't glance back a second time, but the stiff set of his shoulders indicated he was not amused.
"Maybe we could expand our horizons into art," Drizzt said in a hiss, walking closer to Jarlaxle to the point where he was a few inches away. "Blood for paint...intestines for a nice raised painting...and those pretty eyes of his could be made into earrings for some gaudy noble who likes too much jewelry."
"His eyes are pretty?" Entreri added.
"Of course my eyes are pretty," Jarlaxle said with his usual drama. "But they won't become anyone's earrings. Although the same might not be said of the two of you."
"I wouldn't wear your eyes as earrings," Drizzt said.
"Though yours might work," Jarlaxle said.
"Somehow I was under the impression that all unique and interesting drow that people wish to hear tales about have lavender eyes," Entreri said turning to Drizzt, glad to have another person in his immediate vicinity he could be mean to.
Judging by the visible wince, he picked a little too hard at an old and constantly festering wound.
"Only idiots want to hear such tales," Drizzt said, glaring at the human with pure poison.
"Bards should sing of the new Prince?" the assassin asked, not more curious at the response than speaking with a desire to irritate.
"Only an insane bard would sing of such a vile murderer," Jarlaxle said. "Bards with no taste and few brains."
"Of course they'd have few brains," Entreri said, his mood slightly lightened. "Our blood-thirsty nephew would have already spilled them. Speaking of which, what shall we do with Jarlaxle's brain, Drizzt?"
"Burn it, it is lacking in volume and has no use," the ranger said, blowing a long, hurried stream.
"Excellent idea!" Entreri said, clearly mocking Jarlaxle's usual exuberance. "Why does Jarlaxle say you have no intelligence when you display such brilliance?"
"I told you he loves you," the mercenary called back, staying a few feet ahead though becoming more curious about the conversation.
"I'm touched," Drizzt replied. "At least you admit you have no brains."
Jarlaxle turned to face them, but kept walking--backwards. "Now, now, my tools," Jarlaxle said with a smile, waving his finger. "Such indolence will only cost you in the end."
"Now he's just being insulting," Entreri said.
"Now he's being his usual, charming self," Drizzt replied, taking a draw and looking at Jarlaxle. "We brought out the best in him."
"Exactly the reason I bother to keep you around," Jarlaxle said, spinning around to face forward again.
"You're either too easily bored or too easily amused," Entreri said.
"I'm a connoisseur of entertainment," Jarlaxle said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"He's too easily amused," Drizzt said.
"It's a sign of serious shallowness if one can't maintain one's own company without getting bored," Jarlaxle said, clearly tiring of the conversation.
"True," Drizzt said with a shrug. "He could be amusing himself, though he'll never admit it."
"We should find Master Artemis a woman," Jarlaxle said with a laugh. "Amusing oneself too often can lead to blindness, I have heard."
"Though I would fear for such a woman," Drizzt said, not even looking at Entreri though feeling his gaze burning a hole into the side of his head. "She would have to have amazing tolerance. He is more than a little difficult."
"You won't find one who meets my standards," Entreri said, knowing this conversation was going forward anyway. "Both of you have lowly taste."
"Our taste actually exists," Drizzt replied.
"I understand your need to defend your honor," Entreri said sarcastically, "but you don't seriously think Jarlaxle has good taste in women, do you?"
"Hells no, that was never a question," Drizzt replied without missing a beat.
"Speak for yourself," Jarlaxle said, looking over his shoulder briefly before continuing on.
"Ah. You worried me for a moment," Entreri said to Drizzt with mock drama. "I thought you'd lapsed further into madness."
"At least I can actually attract women," Jarlaxle said. "You just scowl at them."
"Paying for whores does not count as attracting women," Entreri said, looking at Drizzt with a feral grin and receiving a brief, sarcastic smile in return. "Which effectively proves my original point; you both have lowly taste."
"You lack the concept of taste," Drizzt said, taking a last draw from his clove before twisting it out. "When was the last time you ever had any flesh?"
"I won't condescend to defend my manhood in such a manner," Entreri replied. "But since I know you'll say that I'm simply trying to make excuses for not having any manhood; my most recent encounter was with a lively half-elf."
"That was who, not when," Drizzt said.
"A rather long time ago, and I'd hardly call her lively," Jarlaxle said.
"Only 'a long time ago' from the standpoint of a slut," Entreri said. "Then again, I actually think with the head that's on my shoulders, unlike the two of you."
"Two heads are better than one," Drizzt said merrily.
"And think of all the enjoyment he's been missing," Jarlaxle said. "No wonder why he's so bitter."
"Poor baby," Drizzt said.
"'Poor baby?'" Entreri said. "This from someone who derives the largest amount of enjoyment from disembowelment."
"I find enjoyment in everyday life...passion," Drizzt said. "I pity you for your lack of both."
"Artemis, don't be so hard on the poor boy," Jarlaxle said. "He is enjoying your company and training, after all."
"Unfortunately," Entreri muttered.
"Unwilling to admit my presence enlivens your pathetic existence a little?" Drizzt asked.
"Not at all, child," Entreri said. "I gain great pleasure from being your mentor and having you follow my orders. That's something you can remember as both Jarlaxle and I break you of smoking."
"And drinking!" Jarlaxle added with a laugh.
"Actually, you're currently encouraging that," Entreri muttered, prompting a second laugh from Jarlaxle.
"He's encouraging a lot of things," Drizzt said. "And orders? Ha! Have you spent this much time with me and learned nothing?"
"We have much work left to do on Drizzt," Jarlaxle said, fully seeing the obscene gesture Drizzt gave him while glancing over his shoulder.
"About that, we are in complete agreement," Entreri said.
"For once," Drizzt replied.
"Speaking of which, perhaps we should work out a mutual training schedule for our drowling," Entreri said, glancing at Drizzt.
"Indeed. He's too careless," Jarlaxle said.
"And undisciplined," Entreri said.
"And exceedingly busy," Drizzt replied in an annoyed tone. "In other words, good luck finding me."
"You mean you haven't yet realized that Jarlaxle knows where you are and what you're doing at all times," Entreri said.
"I would figure as much," Drizzt said, before looking at the human, "Oh do you know something?"
"About your decent into slutdom or about your incessant drinking," Entreri said with a grin. He was too fun to play with.
"No, about him knowing where I am all the time," Drizzt said, giving the human a pointed look.
"Of course," Entreri said with a smile, enjoying this twitching a little too much. "He's got his little elf nose stuck in both of our business all the time. He's not happy unless he's messing with others' lives and privacy."
"Indeed," Jarlaxle said, truly becoming annoyed with the conversation yet trying to remain chipper. "Which reminds me, you haven't been drinking enough water as of late, Artemis. You only relieved yourself twice yesterday."
"Your humor is lacking," Entreri replied.
"I'm just concerned about your welfare."
"Like a good mother hen," Drizzt said sarcastically.
"Nice analogy," Entreri said. "We cook and eat hens."
"They are rather good with wine," Drizzt said with a maniacal grin.
Jarlaxle merely shook his head, continuing on and hoping his tolerance would last the rest of the journey. It was going to be a long night.