recognizable characters belong to R. A. Salvatore and Wizards of the
Coast, I am simply exploring some possible paths the characters could
have taken in their journeys. Also, I am steadfastly ignoring
the statement Jarlaxle made in RotP about his having no children.
Also, I am steadfastly ignoring the statement Jarlaxle made in RotP about his having no children.
The young drow was quiet as a blessed spider as she slipped past the oblivious guards and into the audience hall. Had the guards been more alert to the goings on inside the fortress they might have noticed her passing but the thunder of destruction outside kept their devoted attention, allowing the exploits of the small child to go unnoticed. Indeed, little could wrestle the guards' attention away from the deafening bang of the front gates being blown off their hinges.
Tonight was House Ber'dennon's final night.
The young drow slipped through the vacant hall, moving to the window to glance once more at the massing army outside. An army that did not belong to her house.
The young drow's delicate features stretched thin with the first affects of fear and she hugged her arms around herself, trying to ward off the chill that seeped into her bones. No one needed to tell her that those soldiers would cut the occupants of her house into spider food. No one needed to tell her that she would be one of those occupants. She already knew, as all young children seem to know when they are about to die.
Her mother was off with her older sisters in the house's chapel, praying feverishly to Lolth to aid them in repelling the rival house.
The matron mother had briefly - harshly - told her youngest daughter to hide herself away somewhere, but had paid no more heed to the child. And so the child was on her way to do just that, completely alone as the house's very foundations rocked with the blasts.
She knew she should continue on her way to find a hiding place, and though her feet turned in that direction her eyes could not peel themselves away from the view of the front gates swinging awkwardly on broken hinges. Thus, she watched with horrid fascination as the kobold and goblin slaves of the offending army cleared the yard and fell in scores to the blades of House Ber'dennon's finest warriors.
The young drow looked past the doomed slaves and focused on the drow waiting patently just beyond the broken gates. The drow, numbering well over two hundred, eyed the dying slaves with calculating coolness, watching for the hidden traps. Each of the more-than-two hundred drow fingered their deadly weapons - be it blade or wand or both. But they held back and awaited their orders; and that small bit of discipline told the young drow much of the fate of her house.
The Spider Queen would not be aiding them this night.
The youngest daughter of House Ber'dennon stared at the warriors with something akin to longing. She had only just started her training as a priestess of Lolth and had found it to be dull at the best of times - all preaching and little action. Her interest lay in the sword handling her older brothers were required to learn, and even as the tide of drow warriors suddenly unleashed its fury in a flood of chopping and slicing blades, the young drow found herself mesmerized in the deadly beauty of the movements.
One warrior came into the fray sporting two swords of identical length. His movements were perfect in harmony, the blades weaving just inches before his face and causing his less-skilled opponent to misjudge the reach of the long blades. A fatal mistake for in the blink of an eye the two blades plunged ahead into the belly of one of House Ber'dennon's finest warriors.
All across the yard similar battles waged, with House Ber'dennon's best falling before the invaders as if they were first year students of Melee-Magthere pitted against the First House's finest.
It wasn't long before House Ber'dennon's smartest warriors turned and fled the advancing army. However, they found themselves greeted by locked doors. Trapped between the magically enhanced doors and the poisoned darts of the invading army, the warriors fell in scores before the doors, creating a carpet of twitching bodies.
The young drow's mouth tightened in a grimace as she spotted the twitching form of House Ber'dennon's weapons master in the pile of twitching bodies. Her grimace deepened as she found her two highly-trained brothers lying just steps from fallen weapons master.
The advancing army took its time to spread out and thoroughly sweep through the yard, killing anything that moved as they made an orderly approach toward the house, three wizards in sweeping robes leading the deadly barrage.
The leader of the three wizards raised his wand and pointed it at the door.
Fear overpowered curiosity and the young drow slipped away from the window. She had gone no more than three steps when an explosion caused her to lose her balance and fall to the floor. Luck was with her at that moment, as she fell to her belly just as the window was struck by a bolt of magical energy that shattered it and a good portion of the wall. The young drow whimpered in terror as she scrambled to her feet and ran, knowing well that coming behind her would be several drow warriors ready to kill anything that moved.
Her feet slipped on the shards of glass and she fell to her hands and knees, the sharp shards tearing into her skin and causing her to bleed. She hardly acknowledged the pain as she clambered to her feet again and tore around the doorway leading into the weapons room. She knew she hadn't been fast enough to avoid notice when she heard the shouts behind her of several warriors suddenly inside the hall, but to her relief an unfortunate group of House Ber'dennon's guards rushed into the hall at that moment.
The invaders set upon the guards immediately and the young drow never stopped to question her good luck as she ran silently to the back of the large weapons room, the sounds of the slaughter following her every step.
House Ber'dennon would not survive the hour.
The young drow moved silently past the weapons - many the only weapons of their kind to be found anywhere in the Underdark. Her mother had loved exotic weapons, and had spent lavishly for weapons from all around the world.
Yes, 'had' was the correct word, the young drow knew as a chorus of screams traveled into the room from the house's chapel.
Hardly thinking about it, the young drow grabbed one of the smaller swords, a sharp blade of drow make with the handle carved to resemble a dragon's body and pressed herself into the farthest corner of the room behind a table holding a beautifully carved long sword. She sank to the floor and tried hard to hush her laboured breathing.
It was only a matter of time now.
The commotion around the house went on for several moments, the many screams blending into one constant sound. No one bothered to check the silent weapons room, however, what with the house's other occupants making such an obvious show of themselves.
Within a few minutes the house grew quiet - too quiet for the likings of the young drow. She trembled with fright and only through a supreme effort of will managed to keep her eyes open.
Then a figure appeared in the doorway of the room.
The young drow scrambled as far behind the table as she could go - which wasn't all that far.
"Much the same as I remember it," the figure said as if talking to himself, "although I did not expect, my dear Lilith, that your impeccable tastes would change overnight." He stepped into the room and the young drow dared a quick peak at him.
She recognized him immediately. She had seen him many times in her short life, mostly with her mother but on a few occasions he had spoken to her directly, usually offering her some compliment that was immediately followed by a deadly scowl from Matron Lilith. It was not hard to recognize him. Dressed as if he had gotten lost on his way to a costume party, the male wore an outlandish cloak that glowed every colour of the rainbow and an outrageously plumed hat that would make any female drow jealous.
The drow male was alone and it seemed
to the young drow that he preferred it that way. He wore no weapon,
but an aura of power encircled him that made the young drow weary. He
moved about the room silently, his confidence as he moved speaking
both of great ability and of being well acquainted with the
"Everything is as you left it," the male said, his hand brushing the fine steal of one particularly fancy surface dagger sitting next to an empty space where the young drow had grabbed the sword, "except for the short sword."
Her eyes fell to the glowing trail of warm blood leading straight to her. The young drow caught her breath and pressed herself even deeper into the corner - if that were possible.
She needn't have done so; the male came around the corner of the table in one fluid motion that told her he'd known she was there all along.
"Hello Stalizza," the drow said softly.
The child held the short sword up in a defensive gesture, and though the slender blade wavered in her small hands the male smiled at her game attempt to wield a weapon that was really much too big for her.
"Matron Lilith will not be pleased you are in her weapons room," the young drow said, trying to sound as imposing as her older sisters even though her voice quivered with every syllable.
The male's smile remained in place. "No, I suppose she won't."
The child, Stalizza, looked at the drow male and knew with the certainty of any child that he was here to kill her. She swallowed with some trouble and stared harder at him.
The male, apparently reading the young drow's expression, nodded. "Yes, Stalizza, I am, by law, required to kill you." He spoke evenly but some underlying emotion caused his jaw to become strained, if only slightly. He swept his great hat from his bald head and wiped at the sweat gathering beneath it before reaching for the long sword on the table, looking non too happy about the movement. "You will not feel a thing, dear Stalizza, that I can promise you," the male said.
The little girl understood the implication.
She cowered beneath the staring eyes of the drow male and brought the short sword up to her forehead, holding it so that its sharp edge pointed outward. Fear caused her muscles to clench and she trembled, although she made not a sound of protest.
"Put the sword down," the male said softly.
The child shook her head and pressed her eyelids shut, her knuckles whitening on the hilt as she cowered beneath the blade.
"Stalizza, put it down."
She held fiercely to the blade.
"Stalizza . . ." the male's tone held the deadly quality her mother's voice took when one of her older brothers might have inadvertently angered the Spider Queen.
Stalizza's eyes partway opened and she looked at the male with such a look of fear that the male lowered his raised sword. Fear fuelling bravery, she shook her head with a certainty that had the male looking strangely pleased.
The look was gone in an instant however. "Stalizza, please," the male said, "don't make this any harder than it has to be."
The young drow hesitated, her wide eyes locked on the male's as she read both apprehension and anger in the male's eyes. Anger she was certain was directed at her. She didn't want the male to be angry at her - she didn't want anyone angry at her. She wanted to please this adult drow, as any child of any race wants to please an adult.
Thus, with a great force of will, Stalizza nodded her head and with another supreme twist of will, lowered the sword to the floor. All the while, she held the gaze of the drow male with the great hat and the colourful cloak.
The male raised the long sword, posing his body so that the kill would be swift and clean, but his red glowing eyes did not break contact with the child's large eyes and he hesitated, silently cursing at himself as he did so.
In her eyes he saw innocence that had long been a dead thing to him. In those wide eyes he saw hope for a future that he knew could never exist. But, perhaps most importantly, he saw an opportunity about to be wasted.
Immediately he ridiculed himself for looking into those eyes; ridiculed himself for having talked to the child in the first place; but despite the self-inflicted ridicule, the long sword's tip dipped to the floor and with a small flex of his delicate fingers, the hilt follow the tip. The sword hit the floor with a resounding clang.
"Come here, Stalizza," he called in a gentle tone that still managed to hold the ring of an order. But he offset the ring by dropping to his knees and holding out a hand to the child, a sight that would have baffled the oldest members of Bregan D'earthe.
The little girl hesitated a moment longer, her bright eyes focusing on the male's eyes and trying to read them. She saw in those slanted eyes a guilty conscience at work, repairing whatever ill intentions he had once harboured for her and she recognized that the immediate danger had passed. She could go to him.
With the resolution of any small child, she reached out boldly and grabbed hold of the male's outstretched hand, her small hand barely wrapping around three of his fingers.
The male stared at their joined hands for a moment, creating a mental postcard of the sight for his old age. The child's hand was chilly to touch, but in her firm grip was a fierce will to survive. A will to fight for what she wanted.
The male could appreciate such a will.
The image cemented in his mind, the male reached out with the other hand and in as gentle a movement as he could picked her up and brought her close. Instinct guided the little drow to cling to him, her small form shivering with the after-effects of fear. The male, his own instincts overpowering reasonable thought, held the child in a tender embrace that was, perhaps, the rarest of touches ever to be found in the Underdark. His delicate fingers traced the thin ribs that were only barely hidden beneath a simple white dress and it occurred to him then that all chance of disengaging himself enough to kill her was lost.
Stalizza inhaled deeply and smelled the musky scent of the Underdark clinging to the male along with some exotic smells she could not name. His dangling earrings brushed her cheek as he subconsciously began to rock her. The soft jingle of his many necklaces caused her to relax some and encouraged her to rest her small head against his strong shoulder. Within a moment, the steady thunder of his heart lulled her into a waking rest.
Jarlaxle looked down at the child in his arms and considered what to do next. Few were the times in his life that he had been caught unprepared, but he found himself without a plan as it solidified in his mind that handing her off to someone who would kill her for him simply wasn't an option.
He studied her features as he considered his options. She wasn't very old - although he had lost count of how many years it had been since she had been born. Maybe six? No more than ten. Her hair fell well past her back, and her delicate features spoke almost exclusively of her paternal lineage. Her eyes, so large and clear, spoke of innocence that seemed entirely wrong in this hostile environment.
Jarlaxle sighed as his options grew less numerous. If he were to rescue the child - as he now felt inclined to do - he would have to find a place to put the child until the child was old enough to fend for herself. Seeing as Bregan D'earthe was made up of almost exclusively males, it seemed a foolish thought indeed to raise the child in midst of that dangerous bunch, though Jarlaxle would entrust his personal safety to any one of those males - to an extent. And while House Baenre would eagerly take the girl, Jarlaxle did not want Matron Baenre having anymore advantage in their barter than she already possessed. He could always put the child in the care of one of the numerous female drow who owed him a favour, but that meant letting them turn Stalizza into a male-hating, spider-worshiping fool. Jarlaxle grimaced at the thought. He did not want her becoming a mindless slave of the Spider Queen.
No, he could not, in good faith, leave the girl with any of them.
Jarlaxle sighed as it
occurred to him that the only choices left to him were rearing her
himself or killing her.
But what kind of father knowingly killed his own daughter?
A drow father, a dark part of his mind whispered into his sensitive ears.
No, Jarlaxle thought with a deep scowl directed at that part of his mind; he would not do that.
Jarlaxle found he did not like the implications of the realization. He would have to keep her hidden, even from Bregan D'aerthe. It would not be easy, especially with the illithid Matron Baenre kept.
Still, Jarlaxle reminded himself, having a female - even one so young - in the band would certainly elevate Bregan D'aerthe's standings within the matriarchal city, and Jarlaxle could always use another soldier.
But that was a long ways off. The girl would still need several years to mature enough to even wield a blade, let alone use it effectively. And it would be a while before she could communicate effectively with the high-ranking matron mothers. So until then she would have to be Jarlaxle's personal project.
Strangely, Jarlaxle did not dislike that conclusion.
A scream echoed from down the hall and Jarlaxle felt Stalizza's small fingers dig into his shoulder, her body suddenly tense. Her elder brother had been found, Jarlaxle knew and he figured that it would not be long before the elite fighters came into the weapons room searching for more blood.
Stalizza whimpered as Jarlaxle gently drew his colourful cloak over his shoulder and burried her beneath the fabric.
"Shhh," he breathed against her ear, and with a thought enacted one of his many magical devices.
"Sir?" A Bregan D'aerthe soldier poked his head into the room and blinked, for the mercenary leader was nowhere to be seen. "Jarlaxle?"
But the mercenary leader was long gone, already planning and calculating the band's next move from a remote location far to the west of Menzoberranzan. And all the while he hummed to the little girl in his arms, rocking her to the rhythm of his humming until he felt her tiny body relax and heard her breathing even out.
And so it was that Jarlaxle, King of Secrets, had one more secret in his arsenal.