Excerpts from R.A. Salvatore's Starless Night:
The going was smooth, with no pursuit evident for the rest of that day and long into the night. Finally the group had no choice but to stop and rest, but it was a fitful and nervous time indeed.
So it went for three days of running, putting the miles far behind them. Drizzt kept the lead, and kept the companions far from Blingdenstone, fearful of involving the svirfnebli in any of this incredible and dangerous web.
"And so you have defeated Matron Baenre's plans," Jarlaxle went on grandly, sweeping into another bow. "And you, assassin, have earned your freedom. But look ever over your shoulders, daring friends, for the memories of dark elves are long and the methods of dark elves are devious."
There came an explosion, a blast of orange smoke, and when it cleared, Jarlaxle was gone.
"And good riddance to ye," Catti-brie muttered.
"As I will say to you when we part company on the surface," Entreri promised grimly.
"Only because Catti-brie gave you her word," Drizzt replied, his tone equally grave. He and Entreri locked uncompromising stares, looks of pure hatred, and Catti-brie, standing between them, felt uncomfortable indeed.
With the immediate threat of Menzoberranzan apparently behind them, it seemed as though old enemies had become enemies again.
The assassin and the ranger parted company on the same ledge where they had once battled, under the same starry sky they had seen the night of their duel.
Entreri walked off along the ledge, pausing a short distance away to turn and regard his hated rival.
"Long, too, is my own memory," he remarked, referring to Jarlaxle's parting words. "And are my methods less devious than those of the drow?"
Drizzt did not bother to respond.
"Suren I'm cursing me own words," Catti-brie whispered to Drizzt. "I'd be liking nothing better than to put an arrow through that one's back!"
Entreri wasn't very friendly to her over the next few days, but she couldn't blame him. Drizzt was acting appallingly, staring at the assassin every other minute and launching thinly veiled insults. Catti-brie felt uncomfortable at being caught between the two rivals. For starters, she hadn't known she would be this uncomfortable once Drizzt was rescued. It made her realize that she had gotten closer to Entreri somehow over the course of their dangerous adventure through Menzoberranzan. And no wonder! She said to herself. We saved each other's lives several times over! To a normal person, and in ordinary circumstances, that would've said a lot to her about bonds of friendship. But because it was Artemis Entreri, and because of how Drizzt, her best friend in the entire world, clearly felt about the man, Catti-brie found herself doubting her own feelings.
He's changed, the auburn haired woman protested silently every time she gave Drizzt a pleading look to stop his digging at the reticent assassin. Either that, or he wasn't the man I thought he was. He saved my life, even when he didn't have to anymore. He tried to make me cross the rope because he didn't want me to die. That ain't so cold hearted to me thinkin'.
She endured it unhappily until they were on the Surface, and on their way home. Everyone's home but Entreri's, Catti thought suddenly, and glanced over at the Calishite. She wondered at that instant where his home really was, or if because he was an assassin, he didn't really have one. Not the kind of home she had. The one that she missed so fiercely that her chest ached.
Entreri gave her a returning stare, looking at her strangely. She averted her eyes, and narrowly kept herself from trying to explain her thoughts to the man. She knew that she must appear to be a double-dealing hypocrite, keeping so silent while Drizzt insulted him all day, only to try to talk to him once Drizzt left the area to scout or hunt. She couldn't help it! Drizzt had just been through an awful ordeal, and she couldn't begin to imagine. It would crush him to have her start openly haranguing him for his behavior against his hated rival. But it was so insincere!
It pained her that Drizzt refused to acknowledge that Entreri had honestly rescued him, and repaid the assassin's rare show of compassion with bitterness and anger. No wonder he doesn't show compassion to anyone, Catti-brie wanted to shout in Drizzt's face. When he does, all he gets is a slap in the face! Yer being intolerable, Drizzt Do'Urden! Ye kept preaching that ye wanted him to change, and when he did, ye made hell for 'im! What's the matter with you?
When she and Entreri were alone again, sitting in the small clearing of their meager camp while Drizzt insisted on hunting for their afternoon meal, the man looked at her with evident curiosity, but then averted his eyes and refused to say anything. They sat about five feet away from each other. The Calishite with his legs stretched out comfortably before him, hands palm-down on the ground, and the auburn-haired woman with her knees drawn up close to her body, hands clasped in front of them.
"Why do ye do it?" Catti-brie asked abruptly.
Entreri flicked a glance at her as if surprised that she had spoken to him still, even after Drizzt had walked in on one of their previous conversations and delivered a stinging remark about what he would do to the assassin if Artemis at any time decided to taint the woman with his evil (whatever that meant in the drow ranger's mind). "Do what?"
"Kill people," she said. She stared at him hard. "Being an assassin."
The man shrugged. "It is a job."
"It is my job." He added the pronoun as if she could be in some doubt about that.
Catti-brie let out all of her confusion and frustration over his contradictory nature in one outburst. "But don't ye know it's wrong?" she cried.
Artemis looked at her calmly with no hint of malice or displeasure. "Yes."
She sat back hard, not expecting this answer at all. "But – but –" she spluttered.
"But why?" Artemis Entreri asked, mere fractions of an amused smile on his face, framing her question politely.
"Yes!" the auburn-haired woman said, gaping at him unabashedly, more confused than she had been before she started asking him for answers.
"That is how I make my money," Artemis Entreri explained. "It doesn't matter who it is, as long as someone always wants another person killed." He smiled, a quite reasonable and quite out of place smile. "And they do. Believe me, there are at least ten people right now who want you dead that you have never dreamed of seeing in the past fifteen years."
She goggled at him.
The assassin shrugged. "That is how life is. The people you don't remember are usually the ones who ends up leering victoriously over your dead body."
"That's horrible," Catti-brie said.
He shrugged. "But back to why I am an assassin."
She nodded mutely.
Entreri seemed to be enjoying his captivated audience, for he grinned at her and said pleasantly, "The other reason, of course, is that I didn't have a choice. The guild that recruited me would have killed me if I hadn't agreed to become their assassin, and death is hardly a palatable option to a fourteen-year-old." He spoke of it as if it were some long ago, hazy memory of childhood. Simpler days. Or as if his younger self amused him. "Little could I know, of course, that death is actually preferable than killing tens of people every year for no better reason than some fat, greedy bastard – or some not so fat, greedy bastard – offered me enough gold and jewels to feed the poor of Calimport for a month."
She just stared at him.
"Oh, you see, there are only two kinds of clients," he assured her, as if he thought she couldn't believe the lack of diversity. "Fat greedy bastards, and not so fat greedy bastards. Everyone else who seems different is actually masking their membership to one of those two categories."
"If you hate them so much…" the auburn-haired woman said timidly.
Artemis shrugged. "Oh, but I do. Which is why it's easy to turn around and kill them the moment someone demands it of me."
She looked openly horrified again. The expression sort of became stuck to her face.
"More of your innocence gone, I suppose," the assassin offered, looking at her face intently. Not that he really felt sorry, but he felt mild regret, anyway, especially as innocence, while painful, had its own peculiar form of bliss before one realized everything was a lie.
Then she slowly turned angry, an anger that he had seen directed against the drow of Menzoberranzan only a short while ago. "If ye don't like it, Entreri, why don't ye quit?" she demanded bluntly. Catti-brie stuck out her chin as if she were daring him to come up with an honest answer to that.
Entreri sighed. He felt as though he had had variations of this same conversation with her, and others like her, too many times before. "Because, my dear temporary traveling companion, I can't." He stared at her with a steady gaze. "That is yet another thing I cannot do." In a strange way, he was slowly awakening to the fact that he was fond of her.
Catti-brie's expression faltered. Uncertainty entered into her eyes, and her lower lip trembled almost imperceptibly. She didn't want to accept what he had just said as the truth. "But…that makes ye sound like nothing but a slave."
"I am," Artemis said, shrugging. "I am as close to a slave as the guilds of Calimport can get. If I refused to kill for them, I would be killed." He shook his head slightly. "You can have no doubt about that. And if I left for good, they would bring me back."
She stared at him, sick at the words he was so calmly using to explain to her.
He raised an eyebrow at her. "You do remember Regis? I assume that he is still your friend, in spite of his… actions."
Catti-brie put together his reference almost in spite of herself. "They would send someone after you like they sent ye after me friend."
Enteeri nodded. Then he got up and brushed the front of his pants off with a casual air bordering on callousness, smiling as if to prove to her that he had his fate figured out and simply didn't care. "So you see it is for the best that I return to Calimport, and never bother you nor your ranger friend of questionable sanity ever again."
They parted ways when they came near to Mithral Hall.
At first, those words he'd spoken in that calm, measured voice of his had horrified Catti-brie. 'Long, too, is my own memory. And are my methods less devious than those of the drow?' She thought he was speaking in threats, that he was saying that he might just come back after all and kill them in their sleep for whatever real or perceived slights they had dealt him.
But, as time went on, the words gnawed at her, and they began to take on a different meaning. She wondered with a pang if he had simply meant to compare himself to the drow, and in that case, due to his obvious distaste for them, she wondered if he might have been obscurely hinting at guilt: he might have been trying to say that he regretted his similarity to the dark elves of Menzoberranzan. The auburn-haired woman's heart leapt in her chest, almost stopping the same way it always did when she and her friends got caught in a dangerous situation that seemed impossible to win. If Artemis Entreri did mean to express a moment of self-doubt and penitence, then maybe the things she'd said to him had made some sort of difference. Maybe she had said things that he would remember, and be compelled by.