Chapter 10

The Two Hunters

Zak had been taught a great deal about the Underdark, and utilized this knowledge well. But this particular area of the Underdark was not the one where his father had grown up, and as he wandered the caves for a full week, he learned how to survive specifically in this area, adapting his knowledge to match his surroundings for water and food. He only knew his mission. No emotions racked his brain. Only survival. He was alone. But he only needed himself. Zak was the Hunter.

A presence had made itself known in the area. Whatever it was, it was trying to remain concealed, but it had slipped up at one point. It was not a mere creature, and Zak was curious on what it was. He had spent the day tracking it, and thought it set him a day behind, he knew it had to be worth it. Garumn's axe still ablaze, Zak was now closing in on whatever it was. But he soon found that the trail had died suddenly. Zak spun around, knowing that he was in a trap. He raised his long sword as a blue scimitar struck it. Familiar lavender eyes gazed into his, and the Hunter left Zak. Drizzt stared at his son for a few moments, and the savage look of his eyes dissipated. Four weapons landed on the ground and they embraced. They exchanged no words. Drizzt pulled out Guenwhyvar's onyx figure and smiled, and Zak nodded. Drizzt, Zak, and Guen: That was all they needed to free their friends. Drizzt put the figurine back, and picked up his swords, and Zak armed himself. Zak beckoned to Drizzt, and led him back.

They soon found the Hunter returning to them, but something was different this time. Neither Hunter had the presence of another while in this mind state before, but their coordinated their abilities and efforts fluently, as if this was as the way it had always been. Never were they thirsty, hungry, or found by their prey or the monsters of the Underdark. The trail of the raiding party was not difficult to find once they caught up to where Zak had left. Zak had taken five to get to where he had met Drizzt; they returned in three. The Drow had taken everything that wasn't part of the walls around them, including their trash.

Wordlessly, the two Hunters kept on the trail of the Drow elves. There was evidence that the clerics had set up wards in case Zak returned, but they had been triggered by the hapless denizens of the Underdark. They proceeded with more caution, knowing that they were getting closer to their target, and they would be covering their tracks, and their wards would be more recent and less likely to be triggered. These suspicions were confirmed when Zak was nearly entwined in a web, doomed to suffocate as a second ward triggered, releasing toxic fumes. This was not his fate, however, and they waited for the effects to dissipate before continuing.

The Drow warrior studied the rear of the group. He could hear the snores of the orcs, and was glad for the noise; it kept him awake. He squinted to search again, but saw nothing. Just as he failed to do for the last three hours. He had only one more before he would be relieved and allowed to sleep. He blinked, and shook his head to stay awake. He opened his eyes, and saw a flash or red light. How far and what it was, he couldn't tell. He beckoned to one of the other guards, and they walked towards the spot slowly, their swords drawn. Neither saw the huge panther jump at them from behind. Guenwhyvar killed them both silently and quickly.

Drizzt's longbow fired, nailing a Drow in the back of his neck. Drizzt had made himself known, and the raiding warriors, whose numbers had obviously dwindled from their last few fights with Zak and his friends, returned fire with their crossbows and made their way towards Drizzt, but the Hunter disappeared. When they were close enough, a blazing axe decapitated one Drow. A second was close enough that the flames caught onto his cloak, and the warrior panicked and began to run around wildly, setting another warrior on fire in a comical scene (for those watching) which caused enough of a distraction that Drizzt, Zak, and Guenwhyvar were able to dispose of the remaining attackers swiftly. The three stood before the raiding party threateningly. The priestess that led the party studied them, who was also Phaeraste's half-sister, looked at Jarlaxle, who quivered in the corner of his cage, nursing his seared flesh. She had made sure that the dead mercenary's threat had been fulfilled, and she burned Jarlaxle, stopping his torment only so that he would survive. His scars were still red and a few were infected, but he would survive until they reached Ched Nassad.

"I'm sure you are quite aware of what we are here for," Zak spoke for the first time for about two weeks, "Return all of your captives, unharmed, to us, and nobody will be harmed. Their equipment, too. Even Jarlaxle's hat."

"After all of this trouble? I think you overestimate yourselves," she snickered in reply.

"Last chance," Zak warned. A ball of webbing was hurled towards them, and exploded in a messy slash. Spiders, the size of rats, scuttled around, searching for their targets. Somehow, through, they exploded. The only root in visible range expanded and opened at the tip, where Phaeraste, Bugsight, Reevo, Calihye, numerous Mages, and Calihye's friends appeared out of it, and immediately engaged the Drow. Zak, Drizzt, and Guenwhyvar joined the chaotic fray.

Montolio studied his lock, and tried to recall the proper spell that would unlock it, but he had never thought he would need it, and never bothered learning it in the first place. He thought of melting it, but he decided that the space was too enclosed. He could only hope that his rescuers were successful. He looked over to the tongue-less and handless Longnote, and hoped he would be all right, despite whatever crimes he committed. The bard was grinning and shouting incomprehensible shouts of support for their saviors.

The Drow knew that they were outclassed against their enemies, and though they likely faced persecution back in Ched Nassad, it was better than immediate death here. The priestess and clerics slipped away first, and when the warriors realized that their leaders were gone, they tried slipping away, as well, but their enemies were persistent, and most of them wound up flat out running away.

Not a single orc had died, as each orc had fled at the sight of Zak's axe.

Jarlaxle studied his purple hat; both sides. He sniffed it, and decided that it was good enough to wear. He placed it on his head, and put the feather back in. His face was now scolded, but the healers had done well, and while it drew attention, he was still pretty nonetheless. He just looked that he had been humbled; and he had. Jarlaxle had silently vowed to never affiliate himself with his subterranean kin again. Except for the ones that lived on the surface. They had done so much for him. He looked to the rising sun, and thought of the first time he had ever seen it. He thought it was the mightiest plague bestowed upon the universe. Now he thought it was the greatest source of energy in the universe, especially after possessing Crenshinnabon. But as he studied it, he could only admire its beauty.

"Care if I join you?" Drizzt asked. Jarlaxle nodded, and scooted to the right on the rock he was sitting on.

"I never thought I would be saying this to you, Jarlaxle, but I owe you an apology," Drizzt said.

"I can't think of a reason why you do," Jarlaxle replied.

"I can't word it myself, but I still do," Drizzt said, "I treated you as an old enemy, when I should have treated you as my son has: As a new friend."

Jarlaxle nodded, and smiled.

"For a few weeks, before you knew of Phaeraste, I was the father of your grandchild," Jarlaxle said, smiling widely. When Drizzt looked at him, however, Jarlaxle's expression seemed to have a hint of sadness behind it.

"You were the father?"

"I was. Phaeraste needed a child outside of Lloth's control, and she hired me to make sure that the child would be safe. It was a male, however, born on the Day of Acceptance," Jarlaxle said. Drizzt nodded; the Day of Acceptance was the anniversary of the day where Lloth accepted the Drow as her children. All females born on that day were holy; all males born on that day were insults. Drizzt would have been born on that day, but his birth came a week late.

"When our deal was sealed, she kidnapped me, and gave me a…Bonus, if you will. After the child was sacrificed and she was exiled, she went to me to seek refuge, but I couldn't give it to her."

"When Phaeraste told me of what was happening, she spoke of her sister. Can you explain that?"

"Yes. Phaeraste had a half-sister, someone that is more ruthless than she was. I don't know her name; I don't think anyone does. She's sort of a freelance Priestess. Very powerful, and a major pain the ass."

Drizzt could only agree. He rubbed his head and processed his thoughts.

"What's going to happen to Phaeraste?" Jarlaxle asked.

"Why do you care?"

"She's an old affiliate," Jarlaxle replied. Drizzt could hear a small quaver in his voice, "I'd like to see what jobs she can arrange for me. I'm always on the lookout for a heavier money purse."

"Phaeraste did what she thought was right for her Grove in arranging for the kidnappings. She was unaware of all of the facts, but she now knows to never deal with the Drow again. I will bear her no grudge. She is, after all, my daughter. What Bruenor will do, I haven't the faintest idea. She did the right thing in the end, though."

Jarlaxle studied the rising sun a bit more before saying,

"I owe you a word of thanks. I must be honest with you, when I first found about what you had here on the surface, I found myself envious. Not jealous, but envious. I wanted to know what it felt like, and so I explored life from a different perspective. And I've made such peculiar friends because of it: Artemis, Fey, Calihye, you and your friends, and most of all Zak. We're even now, although I did help him out in his escape. We've saved each other's lives, and that is no small bond. He's a good friend, to say the least."

Drizzt nodded, and couldn't think of how to reply. He could only agree.

"So what are you going to do now?" Drizzt asked.

"Well, since Fey has no intention of staying with Zak, I suppose we'll pick up where we left off," Jarlaxle said, "Getting into trouble. One does not suppress the memories of adventure. After the child is born and she recovers, we'll hit the road again, if she's willing and doesn't change her mind by that time. I've nicked enough artifacts; I don't want to be around when the guild finds out."

Drizzt laughed, and rubbed Guenwhyvar's figurine. It felt so strange, sitting next to someone he thought to be a threat for so many years. And now he didn't know what to think. Drizzt decided that he had left his suspicions behind. He knew what Jarlaxle was like, and knew that wouldn't change. But all the same, Jarlaxle was no longer a threat. Now, he was a friend, and he took consolation in that.

Zak watched as the dwarves and wizards toiled on the tower. Mooshie had found a nice clearing in Zak's grove that wouldn't interfere with the rest of the grove. Zak didn't like it that much, but knew that it was a fitting place. It twisted with the trees, and Phaeraste and her fellow druids were actually making plants grow around it in soil that previously only had grass. The tower wasn't near halfway finished, but the lower level were, and Mooshie and Enyae had already moved in. He heard Kakne moan in his basket. Zak picked up his son, and rocked him in his arms, but the black-skinned, lavender-eyed baby eyed Zak's wineskin, which the baby knew contained milk. Zak chuckled, and held it to the baby's mouth, and he began to drink. Almost every moment of Zak's time was dedicated to Kakne, and Zak couldn't be happier. Mooshie and Enyae were helping Zak raise him, and they spent much time together. Mooshie and Enyae were expecting a child, themselves, after three months of being married. Zak wished that things had turned out differently with Fey, for better or worse. Zak found himself envious of his brother; Mooshie had succeeded where Zak had failed: staying with the woman he loved.

Something caught Zak's eye, however: A large, purple hat with an exotic feather in it. Jarlaxle's half-seared face rose above the hill, a smirk on the Drow's face.

"I tried to show her reason, but she wouldn't listen. I tried forcing her away, but she was persistent. I've got the bruises to prove it. I tried telling her that you two would be happier with the way things are, but nobody ever listens to me anymore," Jarlaxle said.

"What are you talking about?" Zak asked, and he studied the thicket, and say Fey leaning against a tree, thinking to herself on how she would approach Zak.

"At least you tried, Jarlaxle. Uh, hold this," Zak said, handing Kakne to Jarlaxle, and he walked down the hill to Fey. Jarlaxle studied the baby. His skin was black, his hair was white, and his eyes were lavender like his father's, but somehow the baby looked like Artemis at the same time.

"Would you join me on the road as my new partner?" Jarlaxle asked. Kakne began to cry.

"I didn't think so," Jarlaxle said. He looked down to Fey and Zak, then smiled. Whatever Zak said, it worked, because Fey and Zak were now in a deep kiss. Jarlaxle's stomach turned, and he looked down at Kakne.

"I feel especially sorry for you. Now you've got two parents to boss you around. But don't feel too bad. My parents tried to kill me. On several occasions, if I recall."

Kakne stopped crying, and studied Jarlaxle. Kakne's face became one of revulsion, and the baby tried to escape Jarlaxle. Jarlaxle obliged and placed Kakne back into his basket. Kakne seemed to be surprised by this, and studied Jarlaxle. Something about this man was strange, and it frightened the baby. But there was something else, something that seemed to be longing for good in his life. So maybe this strange, purple-haired man wasn't too bad.

Jarlaxle studied the tower, which had advanced well over the last day that he had spent with Zak. Jarlaxle had a few more bruises from sparring with Zak and Fey again, and they felt wonderful. But all good things must come to an end, and so Jarlaxle's journeys with Fey had. But Jarlaxle was not a man that liked to travel alone, and knew that he would have company again soon enough. He watched as Bugsight's zombies worked the mortar and brick, and Seldig studied the stones in the tower. A smirk formed on Jarlaxle's face.

Soon enough.

Author's Note: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you tune in for the shorter sequel. This one revolves around Jarlaxle and explains more about Phaeraste's history, and reaches into Cadderly and his family. I promise I won't make Jarlaxle a bleeding heart; he'll still be the smartass we know and love. And he keeps the hat.

But before you read, go to the bathroom, eat some cereal, and stare at the sun for a while. Oh, and call your mom. She might get you something you actually want for your birthday next week if you do.

Eat your vegetables!