Promise of the What?


Artemis looked around the ghastly landscape and the ugly strip of a road they followed that disappeared into the gray horizon. They were traveling with a group of people, and they were all equally mud spattered and grim-faced. "I know it's a little late for this," the assassin, turning to Jarlaxle, "but I have to ask. What in the nine hells is a witch king?"

"Witch King?" Jarlaxle echoed. He looked around. The others, further away and slogging through the marshy ground, didn't seem to notice their quiet conversation. The drow mercenary carefully lowered his voice another notch and pulled down the wide brim of his purple hat, warily trying to avoid notice. His crimson eye returned to Entreri. "I don't know."

Artemis stared at him. "I'm going to kill you."

The drow noticed they were beginning to separate from the group, being left behind. "Maybe later." Jarlaxle started walking to close the gap between them and their companions.

Entreri glared at his back.

They didn't rest until four hours later.

They were all soaked through by a persistent drizzle that didn't seem to actually fall but acted more like an annoyingly thick mist that followed them wherever they went. Jarlaxle's hat couldn't protect him from it in the least. In fact, it was the first thing to absorb so much water that the drow had to take it from his head and wring it out. "This weather is murder on my hat," the usually smiling mercenary said with a sniff, pouting. "I don't know whether I'm going to have to replace it."

"If you do," Entreri said, "buy it in red. Or orange. Please. Anything but purple."

Now and then, Jarlaxle would stop and wring out his hat again before replacing it on his bald head.

When they finally stopped, reaching more solid ground, the only thing they had with which to make a fire, something they all desired to varying degrees (some warriors even moaning over it), was horse chips. Artemis thought that that only illustrated how much the entire journey stank. He patiently sat and endured the foul smelling smoke. The intellectual part of him was worn down by all that had happened to him, and what he expected still. He felt numb. The only thing he found himself doing that was slightly comforting was watching Calihye. She was talking with a few of the other members of the group, swearing and complaining. He thought it was rather beautiful of her.

Jarlaxle, of course, sat down in front of him and blocked the view.

Artemis scowled.

Jarlaxle blinked, then looked over his shoulder and caught sight of the half elven mercenary. "I've been meaning to ask you this, but one way or another we didn't have time," he said.

"What?" Artemis growled.

Jarlaxle asked, "What do you see in her?"

The assassin stared at him.

The drow insisted, "I did give you Idalia's flute to soothe whatever ills trouble you, my friend, but that hardly accounts for such interest in a woman who was, to the best of my understanding, your enemy. She hardly knew you." Jarlaxle paused, and shrugged. "I know that wouldn't stop me, but your vocal disgust at my behavior was always to the effect that such carrying-ons were despicable." He looked genuinely puzzled.

The assassin stared at him. Though Entreri knew he should be angry, instead he was just… numb. The man found that he didn't have an answer.

Artemis winced as he heard Athrogate's laughter in the background grating on his nerves. "Why don't you do something about him and cast a spell on him already?" he grumbled.

Jarlaxle thought about that. "I don't know."

"It seems to me that the one in need of intervention is him. Why don't you bother him to be a better person, or stop being so damned irritating to everyone else around him, and give me some peace for a change?" Artemis asked.

The drow mercenary made a pained expression. He said, "I think you're forgetting that there has to be something to work with in the first place."

As if hearing them, Athrogate let out another braying burst of offensive laughter.