Chapter 6


Later, when they were both sparkling clean, dried off from their bath and their amusements in the pool, dressed in fresh clothes, they went to breakfast. Wulfgar and Drizzt were both talking and laughing, arms linked in what Drizzt insisted be an open gesture of their intentions. The ranger's self-assurance about announcing their courtship kept Wulfgar from being nervous. For all that the barbarian had made assertions that he was the one with experience, it was Drizzt who seemed the calm and confident one.

When they entered the banquet hall, Wulfgar instinctively froze at the sudden silence of everyone around the table. Catti-brie was staring at him. There was the scraping noise of wood against stone as people pushed out their chairs to stand. Catti-brie hadn't stopped staring. Wulfgar felt numb, as if it was really a nightmare and he hadn't woken up at all today. He felt their eyes all boring into him, seeing him for what he really was. It was wrong. I was right. It was wrong to do what I did in the bathhouse. His mouth went dry.

"Y…Ye go out and do this…" Catti-brie said, her voice small but echoing throughout the silent room, "…the same day ye broke off our wedding arrangements?" Her voice was frail, and Wulfgar suddenly feared that she might faint.

The blonde barbarian cringed. How could he not have thought of that? It looked callous, it looked like he was being cruel, when really she had – She had… He froze in terror more profound than any other emotion he had ever experienced in her life. What had she done? What had she done to deserve this? They had gotten into a silly argument, it was just a silly little argument, they could have resolved it. They could have talked. It would have been alright in the end, everything was always alright in the end, wasn't it? "Oh, no." He hid his face in his hands. "What have I done?"

Drizzt wrapped his arms around his large, muscular frame, trying in vain to comfort him. The dark elf turned to them all pleadingly. "Please, he is so frightened. He is frightened that you will not love him anymore. Tell him that it isn't true."

Regis frowned at Catti-brie and nudged her sternly. "Tell him, Cat."

The auburn-haired woman looked around the room, her mouth agape, as if she might burst into tears. "I did it meself. I tried to pressure me Wulfgar into sayin' things he knew weren't true. He thought I loved him."

"Girl?" Bruenor stared at her in confusion. "What did ye do?"

She crossed her arms behind her back and scuffed her boot on the floor. She looked down, ashamed. "I made 'im get engaged to me. He wanted to. He thought I were tellin' the truth when I weren't. I were only lyin' because I was too scared to make meself like all the other village girls an' try to get a man the old fashioned way. I were scared."

"You what?" Wulfgar looked up at her, his face suddenly ashen. It had been one thing when he had been accusing her of manipulating him when he was angry, and hurt, but it was another thing to hear it from her lips. He suddenly looked devastated, shoulders slumping and a confused, broken look in his eyes, and it was because he was devastated. "You hurt me."

Catti-brie shifted uncomfortably and refused to meet his eyes.

"Why?" Wulfgar's cheeks were now stained with slowly falling tears.

"Ye heard me say it. I was scared."

"You lied to me!" Wulfgar burst out, more tears quickly welling up in his eyes and dropping, straight down, onto the front of his tunic. He felt Drizzt hugging him about the waist, and didn't care. Nothing could make him hurt less right now.

Bruenor looked tired and old all of a sudden, drained and distraught by the news. "The fault is mine," he said, before either of them could go any further. He cut off their protests with a sharp gesture of his hand. "No," he insisted. "I pushed ye together, thinkin' in me senility it would make ye happy. It's this old dwarf's fault, and not either of your own. Go be happy, children. Yer not to blame. If ye can prove otherwise, I'll eat me axe."

"Bruenor," Drizzt said softly, his lavender eyes wide, "I didn't do enough to stop them. Or you, if that's how you want it to be said. I should have done something sooner, but I didn't. I was afraid that my jealousy was making me see things where there wasn't."

"Durned crazy elf." The dwarf king's voice was strained. "Ye didn't have a responsibility. Stop trying to make me feel better."

The elven ranger smiled. "But, Bruenor, I always have to make you feel better. It's my responsibility. That is what friends do, is it not?"

"You and yer crazy friendship talk. Friends're there because we need someone to drink beer with."

Drizzt tried to stifle his laughter at that, but didn't entirely succeed. He released Wulfgar, padded across the room on silent feet, and gave the protesting old dwarf a hug. "You're my favorite dwarf."

"Crazy…little…cracked-headed…" Bruenor spluttered. "Ye're makin' me look like a daisy-by-the-road."

Drizzt smiled mischievously. "Then there's one thing you can do, and only one, to make me let go." He batted his eyelashes innocently.

Bruenor scowled up at him. "That bein'?"

"Let me court Wulfgar," the dark elf said. He gave Bruenor a charming little puppy face.

"You… and me boy?" Bruenor looked at him incredulously, spluttering.

"I like him ever so much," Drizzt said, widening his lavender eyes further. "I promise I'll be good to him… Please?"

"I knew it," Catti-brie said. She scowled triumphantly at them all. "I told ye he said that thing that he said! Ye didn't believe me! I said it! I knew he had designs on me brother!"

"Doesn't it feel good to call me that again?" Wulfgar asked with exaggerated innocence, raising an eyebrow and smirking at her to cover up still-burning pains in his chest.

"Oh, aye." She gave him an impish grin. "Ye're too much of an oaf to be my husband, anyway. I want somebody thin and nimble, graceful, like a dancer, and a voice that can sing." She appraised him critically for a moment and decided on short order that her adopted brother definitely fell short.

Wulfgar supposed that getting all these feelings out in the open, like Drizzt said on the way over here, would be good for them all. Still, it would always hurt him a little, he thought. "Well, you can't have mine," he bantered back. "Drizzt's taken."

"I haven't decided any such thing yet," Bruenor grumbled.

"I'm a man," Wulfgar said, scowling. "I should be able to court whoever I please. It's women that need their father's permission."

"Oh?" Drizzt looked startled. He let go of Bruenor and playfully dusted the old dwarf off. "My apologies." The elf ranger gave Wulfgar a dazzling smile. "Then I guess we can just go. Come, Wulfgar." He nonchalantly started to walk towards the nearest hallway.

Wulfgar retorted, grinning, "I come when I please!"

Drizzt let out a sad sigh. "Ah, well." He continued on.

"I thought we were going to have breakfast," Wulfgar called.

"Let's catch some," Drizzt said. He wiggled, adjusting his green cloak contentedly. "I like mine better fresh, anyway."

Bruenor roared, "Stop insulting me food, elf!"

The ranger stuck his tongue out at the old dwarf.

Wulfgar decided it would be a good time to go, waved a casual, silent good-bye, and strode across the room to join Drizzt. My new lover, he thought wonderingly. They left arm in arm, headed for the woods.

"Well, I'm glad that all worked out," Regis said, crossing his arms behind his head contentedly. "Anyone hungry?" His plate had the remains of four eggs, ten pieces of toast, and three portions of steak on it.

"Rumblebelly," Bruenor muttered. That was all he needed to say.

"I still need my second breakfast," the halfling protested, blithely stealing fried bread from Catti-brie's plate.

"Hey!" she protested, stabbing the stolen sliced with her fork and stealing them back. "I'm never sitting next to you again."

Regis smiled at her cheekily.