Part IV: Jarlaxle Loses His Clothing

by Ariel-D and Surreptitious Chi X

Jarlaxle thought it was a fabulous idea to rob ancient crypts in Narfell, so there they were. Somehow. Entreri had yet to figure out why he came along on these fool's errands to the middle of nowhere, although he made lots of excuses for appearances' sake.

Entreri's standby excuse was, of course, "I'm bored anyway."

To which Jarlaxle would reply, "So you agree!" And then he would flash that blinding smile.

They were somewhere in The Great Dale riding east along the trade road between Uthmere and Bezentil. The Great Dale being, in Entreri's opinion, the most unfortunate backwater, populated by backwards people doing backwards practices in a corner of the world everyone forgot.

The road itself was broken and overgrown in places, which required carefully steering the horses around obstacles. Through the course of their journey they had slept in Entreri's tent every night so far because the locals not only barred Jarlaxle from local lodgings but they also took exception to the assassin as well.

From a fellow traveler headed the other way, for Damara, they learned a joke about these people's attitude towards strangers: 'There's no room in the dale.' That was not much of a joke, since every time they walked into an inn, the keeper promptly said, 'Sorry, no room,' and failure to disappear immediately meant being bodily pushed out the door.

Entreri wondered how any of the inns managed to stay open. And after the fifth rejection, Jarlaxle had been forced to literally drag Entreri away instead, given he decided to burn the inn to the ground. "You would chose such a ridiculous place as this!" he'd snarled at the drow.

At least it was summer and the temperatures and the weather were actually reasonable. But that was a small, small consolation for a trip like this.

And then it got worse.

Partway across a scenic glade, Jarlaxle's clothing just disintegrated, leaving him riding nude. The only thing that remained was his hat. Even his belt turned to dust, dropping all of Jarlaxle's equipment into the grass. Jarlaxle dismounted at the noise and then stood wide-eyed, conscious of his change in public decency.

Entreri halted his horse.


Then laughed.

The man who usually had no reactions at all, who aimed for perfect stoicism, and who usually only used wicked laughs for creepy effect . . . utterly let go. To add extra effect, he purposefully pointed and laughed.

Jarlaxle looked down at himself in consternation and spoke at the same instant. "My clothing! I'll have you know I paid a small fortune -" He stopped, spluttering, when he realized his partner was laughing.

At his mirth, Entreri's horse pranced sideways, and he calmed down, sizing Jarlaxle up. In fact, he was amused enough to take it one step further and pretend to sexually size him up. "Not bad with just the hat. If we find the right kind of bar, we could make decent gold. Assuming you know how to dance."

Jarlaxle's lips twitched. "I don't think you quite understand the importance of what has happened. You see, my clothing . . . " He trailed off. "Did - Did you just ask me if I am versed in exotic dance routines?"

Although Entreri would have denied it, his eyes twinkled. "I did."

Jarlaxle opened his mouth and then closed it again. "What would you do if I said yes?" Then he shook his head and held up his hand. "Artemis, we have entered into a wild magic zone. I believe my clothing disintegrated because they were woven magically. My hat was spared because in truth it is an ordinary hat with a few enchantments placed upon it."

"Your magical clothing disintegrated . . . because of a wild magic zone?" Entreri considered that and summarily began laughing again. Somehow that outcome was far too fitting.

Jarlaxle looked at his partner in bewilderment, comprehended that Entreri was laughing at him again, and felt that unusual defeat of having nothing to say.

Once Entreri calmed himself again, he dismounted and took off his cloak, wrapping it around Jarlaxle. "Well, we already can't get into any of the towns, and it's not going to be made better by your being nude." He smirked. "Well, it might if it were anywhere but here, but it is here. So no dice."

Jarlaxle sighed and held the cloak closed about him. "I suppose we could try to backtrack, but we shall have no idea how large the zone is. There is no way to tell." He gestured. "As you can see, it doesn't differ physically from the area we have passed." He couldn't resist adding the aside, "You know, I always wondered what would make you laugh."

Entreri quirked a grin at him. "Now you know." He considered the situation and then gestured at Jarlaxle's hat. "I don't suppose you have any non-magically woven clothing in your hat?" Of course, even if Jarlaxle did, he might not be able to get them out.

Jarlaxle took his hat off and turned it over. He reached out with his other hand, which allowed the cloak to fall open. For Entreri's benefit, he touched the very solid inside of his hat. "It goes only one way. I had the wizard design the spell that way so a wild magic zone would not cause my hat to explode and spew out all the items I collected in it. Unfortunately, that leaves me with no access to my inventory."

"That was wise," Entreri conceded. "Very well." He walked over to his saddlebags and opened the one on the left, pulling out a set of clothes. "I realize they're dull colors and haven't been laundered, but they're not rank and we're basically the same size." He held them out. "Too bad, though. Watching you prance around naked would have been priceless." However, there was no way Jarlaxle could ride his horse in his current condition.

Jarlaxle raised an eyebrow. "Priceless?" He accepted the clothes, pulling on the breeches first and then putting on the tunic. Then he looked down at his feet. "You don't happen to have a spare pair of boots, do you?"

Promptly, Entreri dug out his spare pair and handed them over. "Don't try to run in those or I'll be laughing at you again." Entreri wore an entire size larger than Jarlaxle did. In Surface measurements, Jarlaxle was a 3AAA, and Entreri was a size 4AA. Not that anyone other than elves tended to have AA or AAA shoes. "Three steps and you'll trip and fall flat on your face."

Jarlaxle grinned and stuck his feet in the boots. "As foot coverings they will do fine. Thank you for lending me some of your belongings."

"And you even managed to put them on without complaining about my lack of style," Entreri quipped. He helped Jarlaxle collect his fallen equipment and stow it into the saddlebags, then mounted his horse again. "Well, now at least we can enter a town without being screamed at for being perverts." A wicked thought hit him, and he snickered. "Although parading you into a town naked while riding your horse bareback would have been quite a show."

"I admit I do not understand the source of your humor," Jarlaxle remarked. He mounted his own horse, which had been patiently eating grass. The drow mercenary nudged his horse into walking. "Would the sight of my body in its unobscured state not cause admiration?"

"Of course," Entreri said with a shocking amount of ease. "However, humans are generally embarrassed by nudity - theirs and others'. Having you parade into a town proudly naked and bareback would be such a shock to them that - " He snorted with laughter at the mere idea. " - a few of them might faint."

Jarlaxle laughed, genuinely amused. "Faint?"

"Especially the ones whose corsets are too tight." Entreri nudged his horse forward until they rode side-by-side.

"And yet those same women wish to see me naked all the time," Jarlaxle mused. "I cannot understand the mindset of human women."

Entreri didn't touch that one - figuratively or otherwise.

Jarlaxle tilted his head, examining his partner. "Would other men laugh at me as you did if I entered a town naked?"

"I doubt it." Entreri paused to consider the problem. "Some would move to shield their women's eyes, perhaps. Others might threaten you." He chuckled. "A few might stare just as hard as some of the women."

Jarlaxle grinned, chuckling as well. "My, my. I have noticed as a general rule humans don't parade around in their natural states, but I never imagined it was that great an issue." He paused, struck by a thought. "How am I going to purchase more clothing?"

"I am more likely to be able to do so than you." At this, Entreri's grin turned quite wicked. "You'll have to trust me to go to a shop and pick out clothing and shoes for you. Assuming the town is large enough to have a shop with pre-made clothing."

Jarlaxle frowned. He plucked at the gray tunic he now wore. "This is fine for the short term, but I can't imagine dressing this way for a tenday. Or a month. Or..." He looked at Entreri pathetically. "I don't know how long it will take to find this crypt we're looking for. What if we encounter some long-buried wizard? I can't have him thinking I dress like this all the time. I need to make a good impression. I am no ordinary drow. My clothing announced that to all the world so there could be no mistake."

Despite this plea, Entreri retained his wicked grin. "Oh? No black? No brown or tan or gray? Then perhaps white would suit. The contrast to your skin would be nice, yes?" He couldn't help teasing the drow, given how often Jarlaxle teased him.

"Artemis," the drow mercenary wailed.

Entreri laughed. "Fine, fine. I'll locate you something in navy, then."

"I'd rather walk around naked than wear navy," Jarlaxle declared. "Navy is too close to my skin color. Artemis, you don't seem to understand. My very identity is at stake. How will anyone be able to believe I am not like every other drow if I dress like any other fashion-blind, color-challenged, dour warrior?"

Entreri shot him such a playful glance that everyone the man had ever known would have died of shock had they seen it. "I am only teasing. And I understand your - questionable - taste quite well." Even in that, he was teasing. Just because he didn't wear clothing like Jarlaxle's didn't mean he didn't understand the style. "I will find something to fit your sense of fashion." And, because he couldn't help himself, he added, "Maybe."

Jarlaxle breathed a sigh of relief and slumped in the saddle, only to look at his partner desperately at that last word. "Consider it a favor. I'll trade favors for it. Anything."

"Oh? Anything?" Entreri nursed that offer like a fine wine. "In that case, I'll give the matter due consideration."

"I've made a deal with a devil," Jarlaxle muttered. He glanced at Entreri. "That is what people must say about me, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes." Entreri hadn't been this amused in ages. Or, perhaps, ever. "Now what do I want . . . " He let the sentence trail off, his gaze wandering away as well as he considered his many, many options.

Jarlaxle looked at his partner warily. Waiting.

But two hours passed, and still Entreri gave him no answer.

They arrived at the small city of Bezentil with Entreri still silent and gleefully thoughtful. If Jarlaxle had been a lesser drow, he would have soaked through his borrowed clothes with trepidatious sweat.

The city teemed with green-clad druids, adventurers, and travelers. Since they had come almost to the end of The Great Dale, inns actually allowed visitors to stay there. Jarlaxle and Entreri chose one called The Trefoil. They ate lunch in their room because Jarlaxle didn't want to be seen in his current garb.

"Surely there must be places that sell premade clothing in a place as large as this," Jarlaxle said.

"No doubt." Entreri kicked back the remainder of this ale. "I assume you'd like for me to go shopping right away." He paused, a horrible thought hitting him. "Unless your hat is working again now . . . "

Jarlaxle glumly showed Entreri an amulet on a chain around his neck. "See this? It should be red, like a ruby." It was currently dark and brownish, resembling a garnet. "I've been checking it periodically since I realized it could detect magic for me." He sighed and tucked the amulet under his shirt. "That's not its purpose. It simply won't light up if there is not enough magic for it to properly function."

"Oh." Entreri sounded a bit too pleased by this. "Very well." He stood and held out his hand. "I'll get to work, then."

Jarlaxle narrowed his eyes, then sighed. "My gold is in my hat. My hat is . . . " He turned his hat upside down, taking it off, and tapped the inside of it. "You see. If I could withdraw my gold, I could also withdraw my spare clothes." He lifted his chin. "I will pay it back."

With a snort, Entreri stalked to the door. "Maybe you should consider some more mundane means for basic necessities." He paused. "For instance, how will you fight now?" And with that, he slipped out.

Jarlaxle groaned at that parting shot.

Entreri made his way to the business district, locating a row of shops. Despite his general disinterest in life's finer things, he had a basic understanding of art and color. One had to as a thief to understand quality when one saw it. Therefore, in the first shop when he saw a pair of purple pants—which were the exact same shade of Jarlaxle's hat—he snatched them up. Then, knowing that yellow and green were complimentary colors to purple, he selected a dark gold cape. Certainly Jarlaxle would be pleased with something that bright, especially given the fancy stitching on the hem.

Finding no shirts to match, Entreri moved on to the next shop, then the next. There he located a belt and a pale green shirt with golden embroidery. At least with Entreri in charge, Jarlaxle's clothes would match. Of course, Entreri knew that was an unfair thought - Jarlaxle had a refined sense of color - but then again, Jarlaxle sometimes dressed as he did just to annoy people.

Finally, Entreri located a shop adjacent to a cobbler and bought the only boots they had in size 3AAA. They were a pale blonde-tan, but regardless of whether it worked color-wise, they would have to do.

And then, because Entreri was still feeling impish, he bought a green feather for Jarlaxle's hat.

Then, toting several parcels of clothing, Entreri made his way back to the inn. A few women smiled his way, no doubt thinking he was showering gifts on a lady-friend.

Once safely back in his room, he handed the horde over to Jarlaxle and smirked.

Jarlaxle exhibited a feeling of foreboding. He untied the first parcel warily. However, he'd selected the purple breeches. His eyes lit up, and he turned a sunny smile on his partner. "I will honor my part of the bargain." He changed into his new pants with a sigh of satisfaction. Then he grinned and wagged a finger at his partner. "And now I know you dress the way you do merely to irritate me."

"On the contrary," Entreri drawled, "I dress the way I do because assassins and thieves are supposed to blend in to their surroundings, not stand out."

"But I gave you magical items for that," Jarlaxle said. "You may blend in without sacrificing a sense of fashion, khal abbil." Without waiting for a reply he opened the other parcels, exclaiming in delight at everything he found. When he'd finished dressing in his new clothes, complete with a green feather tucked alongside his bright pink diatryma feather, he did look mostly like himself.

Entreri sighed. "Do you have to keep the pink feather? It ruins the color scheme. Also, you can't summon the bird, anyway." Being perfectionistic by nature, he couldn't stop himself from making the observation.

Jarlaxle shot him a dirty look, then conceded the point once he looked in the mirror. He tucked the diatryma feather into his pouch of holding. Then he grinned. "I never thought I would hear you speak of color schemes. I am making an impression on you after all."

Entreri just gave him a look.

Jarlaxle laughed. "Since this town seems much friendlier than the others, let us stretch our legs and enjoy some local color."

"Yes." Entreri's lip curled. "I didn't get any of the 'Get the hells out, Calimshite' that I have been getting." He wasn't sure if these people understood that they used the wrong name for his nationality and that the one they did use was an insult, but he figured they did. Then again, one person had called him 'Calimshit' instead. And had gotten a bloody nose for his efforts, but still.

"Nor have I been called tar-face since we arrived," Jarlaxle said cheerfully.

Entreri shook his head. "Let's take our chances, then."

Jarlaxle led the way out, purposely making his golden cape ripple. On the way through the common room, everyone stared at them. Jarlaxle merely smiled. Once on the street, he commented, "You see what a difference the proper clothing makes? Everyone is amazed that drab drow they saw enter could leave such a peacock."

Evidently Jarlaxle still hadn't understood that 'peacock' was an insult.

Entreri snickered and let it pass. Even if he did explain it, Jarlaxle was contrary enough to aim for 'peacock' on purpose.

Jarlaxle walked through the town, happily sightseeing, until he found a local watering hole that caught his eye. It was called The Twiggy Staff. Judging from what they could see from the outside, the clientele was made of mostly druids and local tradesmen. He entered with a flourish and selected a corner table in order to people-watch.

Entreri followed, noting right away the wave of chatter and tension as they entered the room. Likely it was because Jarlaxle was drow, so he steeled himself for the usual fear and rage. By now, they had perfected their means of dealing with racism, with Jarlaxle often able to use his charm and wits to keep violence at bay, so Entreri wasn't overly concerned. He took a seat.

Several tables full of able-looking men continued to monitor them suspiciously. The barkeep talked with the barmaids before sending one over.

"What is it ye want, sirs?" she said with as much courtesy as she could manage. She clutched a tray as if she meant to use it as a shield if they attacked.

"Two pints of local ale," Jarlaxle said, smiling. "What is this town known for? We would like some of that."

She stared at him.

"And garlic bread," Entreri said. "Do you have that, or can you make it?" Garlic bread was his Sin Food. After mucking his way through the Great Dale, he felt he deserved some small amenity.

"G-Garlic bread. Of course." She curtseyed to him. Then she resumed staring at Jarlaxle. At about the point when Jarlaxle felt a tip might be in order, she gathered her skirts and hurried away. A whispered conversation with the barkeep ensued, with lots of pointing.

The barkeep ended up gesturing repeatedly with both hands, the same motion over and over. She ran to the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a basket of sliced bread, toasted and buttered, with roasted garlic on top.

"Thank -"

Without even waiting for Jarlaxle to finish, she went back to the barkeep.

"Well, you are drow," Entreri drawled. "We can't be surprised." Indeed, they had been chased out of towns, arrested, held at arrow-point, threatened, spit at, refused service, or been granted service only for their food or drinks to arrive with things like flies or mud in them.

Entreri took a piece of bread, scanned it for insects and dirt, then ate it. It crunched nicely, the garlic flavor pleasantly strong. "Not bad."

Jarlaxle took a piece of bread himself and bit into it absently. He watched the barkeep and the barmaid wave over a middle-aged man with a beard and a green cloak. They pointed him out. The man nodded and crossed the tavern to them. "Well met. Or is it ill?"

"Pardon?" Jarlaxle asked.

Entreri wondered what ludicrous situation they'd stumbled into now. With Jarlaxle around, anything was possible.

"Your cape," the man said.

Jarlaxle took another bite of garlic bread and looked at the man blankly.

"Your cape and your hat. Purple and amber," the man said with a touch of impatience.

"Aren't they lovely together?" Jarlaxle licked his fingers. "Do you like garlic bread? Come, sit."

The man sighed and sat. "My name is Silverleaf. Gorodin Silverleaf. And I won't break bread with you unless you prove you aren't one of Talona's blightmen."

"Talona?" Entreri snorted. "Who in the Nine Hells would want to follow her? Do we look ill?" Of course a few assassins in Calimshan did follow Talona, especially those who specialized in poisons, but Entreri doubted anyone here would have heard of him even if he did give his name.

Jarlaxle decided it was time to play stupid. He swallowed another bite of garlic bread. "We're strangers. If Talona is some local matron or something, I assure you, we're not interested."

The man took them both in, sighed, and sat. "No. Talona is not a woman. She is a goddess."

Jarlaxle shrugged.

"I've heard of her," Entreri said. "But why would you think he follows her? He's drow. What use would he have for some minor human deity?"

"She's far from minor in this area, and he wears her colors," Silverleaf said grimly.

Jarlaxle had kept eating throughout this conversation in an act of innocence. "Colors?"

"Purple and amber."

Jarlaxle looked down at himself. "Oh. But I so love purple and amber. Surely wearing colors I like isn't an act of aggression?"

"You don't understand, drow," Silverleaf said.

Jarlaxle looked to Entreri.

Entreri stared at Silverleaf. "Neither do I. Talona's followers wear ragged gray-green cloaks and tattoo and scar themselves. Why would some pretty drow with no tattoos and bright gold and purple clothing be suspected of being her follower?"

Jarlaxle beamed. "Exactly. I'm pretty."

Silverleaf stared at them. "I'm trying to tell you what's going to get you in trouble. Don't wear purple and amber in combination with each other. Talona's spies have been trying to infiltrate druid business for a long time."

"Would a spy wear her colors?" Jarlaxle asked.

"Don't argue; just take something off," Silverleaf said.

Jarlaxle chuckled behind his hand and slid his gaze to Entreri. "I understand what kind of a place we are in now."

"Well, you did say you dance well," Entreri quipped.

Silverleaf stood up. "This is not that kind of place." He looked disgusted. "Ignorant drow don't belong here. Go home."

"But I don't have a home," Jarlaxle protested. "I'm an orphan."

Abruptly, Entreri lost his rare good mood, although he wasn't sure why. "Don't tell him to leave just because he's not aware of some evil goddess and her plots. You should be glad of his ignorance instead."

Silverleaf visibly chewed that over. Then he bowed. "My apologies. This war makes all of us tense. You have every right to be here if you don't cause trouble."

"Then can I get some ale? I'm thirsty," Jarlaxle said.

Silverleaf turned to the barkeep and nodded.

The barmaid delivered their ales.

Entreri relaxed and took a sip of his ale. He also steadfastly refused to analyze the source of his reaction. "Finally. Some semblance of sanity."

Silverleaf sat down and took a piece of bread. He bit into it. When he did that, the rest of the patrons in the tavern relaxed.

"Who are you, exactly?" Jarlaxle asked. "Why does everyone seem so interested in whether or not you like us?"

Gorodin Silverleaf's expression became ironic. "I am the leader of this town."

Entreri snorted.

Jarlaxle kept up the act of recent immigrant. "But you are a male." He looked from Silverleaf to Entreri with amazement.

"The Surface is not like Menzoberranzan," Entreri said, playing along. "Being dickless is not a requirement for rulership."

"Do men not rule where you come from?" Silverleaf asked. He bit off another piece of bread.

Jarlaxle shook his head. "No. No male ever rules. Well, almost never. Not in my city. My old city." He washed down a bite of bread with ale.

"Here is it the tradition that a male rules his people," Silverleaf said.

"How odd. But why are you afraid of Talona if she is female and does not rule?" Jarlaxle asked.

"Because she is not a mortal. She is a goddess. And I am not afraid of her. I follow the god Silvanus. He is far superior to Talona in strength."

"Yet you say you have been at war with her a long time," Jarlaxle said, acting puzzled.

Since Entreri paid little attention to the gods, owing to the behavior of their clerics, he didn't have to feign ignorance. "And why is Talona harassing this area? Or, rather, her followers?" Of course, he didn't really care, although secretly he had to wonder why Talona's spies were so stupid as to mark themselves with colors. Humans, he silently groused, internally shaking his head at his own kind.

"We do not know why Talona is interested in our land," Silverleaf said. "As for the war, each deity's followers must fight each other. Our forces are . . . evenly matched."

He's lying, Jarlaxle signed to Entreri. They're losing the war. He's not a very good liar.

Agreed, Entreri signed back. He nabbed another piece of garlic bread. "Do they not wear the usual gray-green robes? Do they not tattoo or scar themselves?"

"Some do, and others don't," Silverleaf said. "The Chosen of Talona is among those on the battlefield. His followers are not ordinary worshippers of Talona."

"Does this mean that your god's followers are color-coded as well?" Entreri couldn't help picking on the man as much as Jarlaxle was, although also like Jarlaxle, he feigned innocence.

Silverleaf gestured at himself. "All druids wear green."

"I am wearing green," Jarlaxle said brightly. He took the feather from his hat and showed it off. "Isn't this pretty? I never knew there were green birds."

"It is dyed," Silverleaf informed him.

Jarlaxle looked momentarily disappointed. Then he brightened. "Well, it is still pretty." He tucked the feather back into his hat band. Then he asked, smiling, "Am I a druid because I wear green?"

Silverleaf looked to Entreri with a sigh. "Please translate for me. Or something."

Entreri remained properly stoic. "Anyone can wear green," he said with mock patience. "However, druids wear green as a sign of their faith. Probably because it is the color of grass and most leaves."

"Faith in what?" Jarlaxle said.

"Silvanus," Silverleaf said.

Jarlaxle made a show of thinking about that. He finished off a third piece of bread and signed to Entreri, Let's be out of here. I have no interest in getting caught up in a war.

"If green is for Silvanus . . . " Jarlaxle trailed off.

"Yes," Silverleaf prompted.

"And purple and amber are for Talona . . . "


Jarlaxle gave him a wide-eyed pout. "Is it wrong to wear them both?"

Gorodin Silverleaf facepalmed. "Yes!"

"Only here," Entreri corrected. "Back in Calimshan, wearing purple and gold together means you're nobility, and wearing green is a sign of youth. Wearing all three together indicates you're a noble youth." He couldn't pass up the opportunity to harass via nitpicking.

"Then let's go to Calimshan," Jarlaxle said. "It is too difficult to be pretty here."

"As you wish." Entreri knocked back the rest of his ale and stood. "Better than being run through or run out here because people think you're worshipping the incarnation of disease and destruction."

Jarlaxle shivered. "Yuck." He stood up and bowed. "Thank you for not attacking me, but you are too boring."

Silverleaf rose with a snort and bowed in return. "I . . . see. Good journey to you."

Entreri tossed down gold to cover their snack and herded Jarlaxle out, saying, "I suppose you learned much about the Surface and its cultures today" as a parting remark for their act.

As soon as they were riding out of town, Jarlaxle burst out laughing. "I must remember to pretend to be simpleminded and ignorant in the future!"

Entreri snickered. "It did work well." He gave Jarlaxle a sidelong glance. "And you do it so well, too."

"Thank you. I pride myself on - " Jarlaxle stopped and looked at his partner suspiciously.

Entreri gave him the best approximation of an innocent look as he could muster.

Jarlaxle looked away, smiling. "I think we should reward ourselves simply for having survived this awful Dale. We should go to some grand city full of welcoming people. Supple females, good food . . . " He fell into a daydream.

Entreri rolled his eyes, then hit upon a truly evil idea. "Yes, let's do that."

Jarlaxle brightened. "You will enjoy yourself as well. I knew I was rubbing off on you."

"Yes, quite enjoy myself," Entreri drawled.

Jarlaxle's finely tuned sense of discord finally picked up on his partner's odd tone. "Artemis?"

"In repayment for the clothes I picked out for you," Entreri said, his wicked grin returning, "you must go an entire month without sex. No lightskirts, no barmaids, no random adventurers . . . nothing."

Jarlaxle stared at him. "Are you serious?"

"No." And then, for the second time in two days, Entreri genuinely laughed.

Jarlaxle felt a wave of utter astonishment, self-knowledge, and humility. He bowed his head and laughed as well. "Then what is the favor that you seek?"

The assassin gave him a truly strange smile indeed - the kind one did not expect upon someone as stoic and supposedly cold as Artemis Entreri. "I am saving it." And then he spurred his horse into a canter, kicking up dust as he left the town of Bezentil, Jarlaxle following.